After the MLB labor dispute in the mid 1990’s, many people think that Major League Baseball has been in the “Steroids Era” ever since. Numerous high profile MLB players have been accused of steroid use and a few, like Jose Canseco, even admitted it openly, crediting the use of steroids online for his entire career. In fact, Conseco wrote a book called “Juiced” which documented the use and impact of steroids in baseball.
According to Canseco, up to 85% of MLB players currently playing today are using performance enhancing drugs. Jose’s book titled “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits and How Baseball Got Big” names many well-known players who have used steroids during their professional careers.
Another player, Ken Caminiti, came forward about his steroid use and detailed the damage the drug has done to his body. Caminiti admitted that his body had mostly stopped producing testosterone and that his testicles have gotten much smaller. As a matter of fact, his body only had 20% of the normal level of testosterone. And although Ken Caminiti clearly knew the damage it did to his body, he still confessed that he would have done it all over again if he had another chance. Ken eventually died as a result of his steroid use. (from Wikipedia)
Several beloved MLB players have stood accused of using these performance boosting drugs. Names like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Giambi have been tarnished by the claims. Their records and awards have all come under question since they were not achieved naturally, but with chemical assistance banned by MLB commissioner Bud Selig.
A company known as BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative has been cited as a central source of steroids to athletes in many sports. BALCO was an American based nutritional supplements company run by Victor Conte.
BALCO made and marketed a steroid dubbed “The Clear”, also known as THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, which was created by a BALCO chemist named Patrick Arnold (from Washington Post)
In 2003, the company’s role in a drug sports scandal was investigated by two journalists; Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada. The scandal was referred to as the BALCO Affair and focused on the distribution of the Clear to several high profile athletes in America and Europe over a period of several years by Conte, Greg Anderson, a weight trainer and Remi Korchemni, a coach.
The investigation was aided by a tip from US Olympic sprint coach Trevor Graham in 2003. Graham supplied a syringe containing traces of the substance known as “the Clear”. A test to detect the Clear was developed and some 20 Olympic class athletes tested positive for the drug. Marion Jones, an Olympic track star, just admitted to using steroids after years of public denial. She said she used them to prepare for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and the Olympics committee has now taken away all her medals. (from the Washington Post)
Later, a search of the BALCO facilities uncovered a client list with names including Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi, Gary Sheffield and a few other MLB players.
Arizona D-Backs pitcher Jason Grimsley’s home was searched in 2006 by U.S. federal agents and Grimsley admitted that he had used amphetamines, steroids and human growth hormones. In the end, Grimsley was released from his contract with the D-Backs and suspended for fifty games by the MLB.
After all this time, steroid use is still a big issue in the MLB. And since Barry Bonds has been mixed up in it and he broke the home run record this year, the story continues to have legs. Perhaps the MLB should institute tougher penalties for steroid use. For example, give out suspensions when catching any player during regulated unannounced testing. If the player tests dirty again, his contract is void and he is banned from Major League Baseball for life.
The penalty has to be severe enough to detract these players from using performance-enhancing drugs. Indeed, baseball has been criticized for being so lackadaisical about steroid use and for not handing out stiff enough penalties. But it is not just the players and their families who get hurt. It’s the fans and children who look up to these players as role models.
All the players in the farm leagues and minors are hurt as well. In their drive to achieve that dream of a multimillion dollar major league contract, they have to perform at the same level or better than the athletes presently playing. That creates huge pressure to use steroids that can be hard to overcome. Some say that amphetamine use is widespread among players in the minor leagues and that steroids are also used a lot.
One thing that makes sense is that if only some players are using performance-enhancing drugs while the rest are not, the former have an unfair advantage, making fair competition impossible. And sports are defined by fair competition, that’s one of the big reasons people love sports. Life is full of grays, but sports are black and white. There is always a clear winner in the end and everyone expects that the winner achieved the success in a fair and ethical way.
Either none of the MLB players should be using steroids or all of them should be to make it fair. Although many people say that achieving new records while using steroids, such as Barry Bonds allegedly using steroids while achieving the new all-time home run record, shouldn’t count, others argue that he was batting against many pitchers who were also on steroids. Therefore, it all evens out, they say. But we don’t know which pitchers were using steroids and which ones weren’t, making it next to impossible to determine what’s fair.
Unfortunately, athletes like Ken Caminiti die because of steroid use. Children lose their fathers, wives lose husbands, Major League Baseball increasingly loses its good reputation, and fans lose respect for the sports figures they look up to. There are probably many reasons why baseball players choose to use steroids. They may feel heavy pressure to be the best and win.