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Blue Jays led MLB with the most minor-leaguers found using banned substances

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins has ordered an internal investigation to try to determine the reasons behind the sudden spike in performance-enhancing drug suspensions.

Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Toronto Blue Jays led Major League Baseball in one capacity this year, but it is not one the organization is proud of.

On Tuesday, MLB suspended three players in the Blue Jays minor-league system for using performance-enhancing drugs. That makes seven Toronto minor-leaguers who have been caught cheating this season, the highest of any team.

The Seattle Mariners, with five players nabbed, are second on that list.

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There were 79 players from the 30 clubs who were found to be in contravention of the league's Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

In 2016, the Blue Jays had six minor-leaguers test positive for banned substances.

No other team in the majors can match the Blue Jays' 13 failed drug tests over the past two years. The New York Yankees are No. 2 with 11.

The high number of drug infractions in Toronto's minor-league system is distressing to club general manager Ross Atkins, who has ordered an internal investigation to try to determine the reasons behind the sudden spike.

"This situation is very disappointing and disturbing to the organization; disappointing that the players made these choices, but more so disturbing that some failure of our environment allowed this to happen," Atkins said in a statement released by the club Thursday. "It is our responsibility to create an environment and culture where our players know that PED use is not condoned, and to give them resources and education to ensure that they do not make these decisions.

"As we seek to determine both how and why this happened, an internal investigation into the situation remains ongoing, and we will double down on ensuring that all our staff is properly equipped to help our players make the right choices."

All seven of the players caught this year started the season in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League. They are not household names.

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Earlier this week, right-handed pitcher Juan Jimenez and left-handed pitcher Naswell Paulino each received 72-game suspensions after testing positive for Boldenone, an anabolic-androgenic steroid developed for veterinary use.

Right-handed pitcher Jol Concepcion, who was promoted to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, received a 60-game penalty, also for using Boldenone. Last week, MLB suspended shortstop Hugo Cardona (72 games), infielder Yhon Perez (72 games) and catcher Leonico Ventura (72 games). As in the other cases, Boldenone was the drug of choice.

On Sept. 1, Toronto minor-league pitcher Luis Pena was suspended for 72 games after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid.

When contacted by telephone on Thursday, Atkins did not want to talk about the matter, referring a reporter to his statement.

In the statement Atkins said the Blue Jays support MLB's continuing program to combat illegal drug use at the minor-league level "and will continue to collaborate with MLB on all matters relating to PED abuse."

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