Raudy Read, who made his major league debut last season and now stands as one of the higher-rated Nationals prospects, has been suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for Boldenone, making the young catcher the franchise's first big leaguer to face punishment for performance-enhancing drugs.
Read, 24, confirmed he tested positive during "a routine drug test this winter," but said he was "shocked" by the result and insists he has never knowingly taken a PED.
"Over the course of my seven-year career with the Washington Nationals, I have been routinely tested dozens of times for performance enhancing substances (including seven times throughout the 2017 season)," Read said in a statement released by the Major League Baseball Players Association. "I never tested positive, because I have never in my life knowingly used a banned substance. I have been extremely careful and conscience about what I put into my body. I don't take supplements or anything else on top of my regular diet, which consists simply of chicken, beef, rice and vegetables. So when I heard I tested positive during a routine drug test this winter, I was shocked. I was convinced there had to be a mistake, and I thought I'd be ok. I hadn't used anything. So I fought this on appeal, explaining that I had no idea how this positive test could have possibly happened. But without being able to identify the source causing the positive test, I could not prevail. I'm very disappointed and frustrated with this outcome."
Whether Read knowingly did anything wrong or not, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the young catcher must take responsibility for the positive test result and ensuring punishment.
"This is a very serious matter - one that I do not take lightly," Rizzo said in a statement released by the club. "We educate players across our system on the program and set the expectation that they fully abide by it. I am deeply disappointed in Raudy. I have spoken with him directly and he understands that he is ultimately responsible for what he puts into his body. In the end, I hope he learns from this experience."
Read's 80-game suspension as a first-time offender will begin on opening day, making him eligible to return June 30. He remains eligible to participate throughout spring training with the Nationals, but he would be ineligible to participate in the postseason if the club gets there this season.
Read becomes the first Nationals player to be suspended for a positive PED test while on the organization's 40-man roster. The Nats had been one of only five franchises to be able to make that claim since MLB began suspending players for positive tests in 2005, joined by the Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox and Athletics.
There have been a handful of Nationals minor leaguers who have been suspended over the years, most recently Single-A Potomac right-hander Jefry Rodriguez, who last May was suspended 80 games following a positive test. Rodriguez was added to the club's 40-man roster earlier this winter and will be in big league camp this spring.
A Dominican native signed by the Nationals in 2011 at 17, Read is one of several Latin American prospects to have reached the majors in recent years, emblematic of the franchise's long-awaited but finally fruitful international scouting and development program. Known more for his bat than his glove, he enjoyed a breakthrough season at Double-A Harrisburg in 2017, hitting .265 with a .767 OPS and 17 homers (eight more than he had hit in any previous season).
The Nationals made Read among their September call-ups and he made his major league debut as a late-inning replacement Sept. 3 in Milwaukee. He wound up appearing in eight games, going 3-for-11 at the plate.
Read was unlikely to make the opening day roster, with Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino and recently signed veteran Miguel Montero all ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. But he remains a potential long-term answer behind the plate for the Nationals. He'll now attempt to work his way back after missing the first half of the season.
"I know I have let many people down, including my teammates, coaches, family and fans," Read said. "And I am so sorry to you all for hearing the news of my suspension. This does not reflect who I am as an athlete, or as a person. I will do whatever I can to clear my name. My work ethic and dedication to the game has never been higher. I will utilize this time away to train at the most elite level, while working to regain the trust of MLB, the Washington Nationals front office, coaches, teammates and fans."