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Pirates’ Marte hit with 80-game suspension

Major League Baseball slapped Pittsburgh Pirates’ Starling Marte with an 80-game suspension after the outfielder tested positive for a banned substance, according to an announcement.

Marte tested positive for nandrolone, a synthetic anabolic-androgenic steroid derived from testosterone, and will have to serve the suspension immediately and without pay.

“I have been informed that I have tested positive in one of the tests that are regularly done in my job,” said Marte in a joint statement with the MLB-Players Association. “In this very difficult moment I apologize to my family, the Pittsburgh Pirates, my teammates, my fans and baseball in general.”

The 2016 All-Star was batting .241 this season and has produced two home runs and seven runs-batted-in in 13 games.

He is one of the Pirates’ cornerstones along with Andrew McCutchen, who he replaced in the center-field because of his speed and better reading.

BLOW TO PIRATES

The Pirates signed Marte to a six-year, $31 million contract that began in the 2015 season, hoping he will continue his steady rise among MLB’s best outfielders.

Marte, 28, is a career .288 hitter who has 60 homers and 242 RBIs in 612 games over five-plus seasons with the Pirates. He had career-highs with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs in the 2015 season but had his first .300+ batting average in 2016 when he hit .311.

“We are disappointed that Starling put himself, his teammates and the organization in this position,” said Pirates president Frank Coonelly.

Under an added provision in the rules in 2013, Marte cannot play for the Pirates in the post-season even if the 80-game ban ended before the playoffs began, unless Marte decides to have his suspension appealed and reduced.

WILL IT STOP?

Marte is the first notable player to receive a suspension for PEDs this season, though he might not be the last.

In 2016, a handful of famed players got slapped with long-term bans including Miami Marlins’ Dee Gordon, who got handed an 80-game suspension.

Jenrry Mejia, who was with the New York Mets last year, got handed a permanent ban for his third PEDs-related case.