Imagine being a Major League Baseball player who has devoted their entire life to an illustrious career, only to miss election into the Hall of Fame. You were not voted in because you use performance-enhancing drugs. The media labels you a cheater, the fans despise you, and your historic career all goes down the drain because of one year.
Major League Baseball has an abundance of banned substances. Drugs of Abuse, Performance-Enhancing Substances, Stimulants, and Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) spearhead the massive list that shakes fear into the players. The prohibited substances list spans 175 different substances, all neatly placed into a list to serve as a reminder to the players and the fans. The MLB does not tolerate performance-enhancing drugs, a stark contrast to the Steroid Era days.
Many remember the Great Home Run Chase of 1998, where Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire battled daily to break the record for most home runs hit in a single season. The record set by McGwire, who hit 70 home runs, was broken three years later by Barry Bonds, who mashed 73 baseballs out of the park. Many agree with authors Patrick Antinori and Rodney J. Blackman, who claim, “it’s Great Home Run Chase, has been stamped as having saved baseball.” The authors point out that the journalists celebrating the historic accomplishments of the players during this era were the first people to question the legitimacy of their records when MLB brought the notion of drug abuse to play. Claims such as this are one of many claims about the steroid era in their paper, “Contextualization of a Shifting Perspective Regarding the Steroid Era.”
Performance-enhancing drugs are the demon that made one of the most celebrated eras of baseball the most admonished. Anabolic steroids are a class of performance-enhancing drugs that are abused throughout the MLB. Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, and Rafael Palmeiro are three of many players who crashed in a blazing glory when the Mitchell Report was released in 2007, documenting the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. The Mitchell Report was the axe that slayed the head of The Steroid Era; the fuss, the commotion, and the integrity of the game had returned, or at least we thought!
The end of the Steroid Era ushered in new waves of performance-enhancing drug policies that would usher in a sense of security for the public but didn’t change much about the game of baseball. In 2013 New York Yankees President Randy Levine was interviewed on Bloomberg’s ‘Taking Stock,’ where he whole-heartedly believed that Major League Baseball has the strictest drug testing policies in professional sports. Warren Chu states in his examination of the MLB’s current anti-doping policies, “MLB tests every player at least three times a year.” Further, each player is selected for random drug testing during Spring Training, the regular season, and the off-season. Chu later adds in his Columbia journal of law & the arts publication, “Each player will also be randomly selected once for a blood specimen collection during the season to test for hGH.
Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program also provide players with corresponding punishments if they’re guilty of violating the anti-doping policy. Chu’s article, WADA TIME TO CHOOSE A SIDE: REFORMING THE ANTI-DOPING POLICIES IN U.S. SPORTS LEAGUES WHILE PRESERVING PLAYERS’ RIGHTS TO COLLECTIVELY BARGAIN, clearly outlines the punishments as such. “For a first offense, an 80-game suspension; for a second offense, a 162-game/183-days-of pay suspension; and for a third offense, permanent suspension from Major League and Minor League Baseball, with a chance to apply for discretionary reinstatement after a minimum period of two years.” These strong punishments undoubtedly deter PED use in the MLB, but it doesn’t stop everyone from taking them.
Within the past five years, there have been 24 suspensions given out due to PED use. As listed on ‘Baseball Almanac,’ these players include superstars Fernando Tatis Jr, Emmanuel Clase, and Robinson Cano. The New York Times has produced many articles outlining PED use’s detriment on a player’s career. Tatis went from having the second-most jersey sales in the league to losing his Addidas sponsorship. Robinson Cano, when suspended 162 games, stated that he would never cheat the game that he loved. Even young stars like Emmanuel Clase, who was only 21 when he was suspended 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, caused disappointment to his team and fanbase.
PED use has undoubtedly been a force that has caused indecisiveness in the baseball community at large. Everyday arguments arise over whether or not Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame or whether or not his single-season home run record should stand. Numerous players have found glory entering the Hall of Fame, even when they have used drugs. Mike Schmidt entered the Hall of Fame in 1995, even though he admitted to using amphetamines to enhance his performance.
Amphetamines are another banned substance on the MLB list, but there are everyday subtleties that give players an advantage every day. Take Coors Field, for example; it is the mile-high city of Denver, and the high elevation allows players to hit the ball farther than in lower-elevation stadiums. Batters with pine tar have an advantage in bat grip over players who don’t, yet pine tar is allowed for use. Players cork bats, use pine tar, have pre-game rituals, hire nutrition coaches, and train with the best coaches in the world, all to gain an advantage over another play and team.
Lastly, these behaviors differ from PEDs, yet all supposedly end in the same outcome, an advantage for the player using them. It begs the question of what benefits arise from using other means than natural skill and talent. Do players deserve to be stripped of all accomplishments because of a lack of judgment while others revel in the glory of fame and fortune while still using advantages that other players may not? We view players who bring our team success as heroes, even if they are cocaine addicts, but players who took that injection are now villains.
MLB.com. 2022. Clase suspended 80 games after positive test. [online] Available at: <https://www.mlb.com/news/emmanuel-clase-suspended-80-games> .
“JDA | Mlbpa.” Mlbpa, http://www.mlbplayers.com/jda. Accessed 17 Oct. 2022.
nytimes.com. (2022, October 6). Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/06/sports/baseball/fernando-tatis-padres.html
nytimes.com. (2020, November 18). Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/18/sports/baseball/robinson-cano-mets-suspended.html?action=click
MLB Steroid Suspensions (2005-2022) | Baseball Almanac. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/steroids_baseball.shtml
Chu. (2021). WADA Time to Choose a Side: Reforming the Anti-Doping Policies in U.S. Sports Leagues While Preserving Players’ Rights to Collectively Bargain. The Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, 44(2), 209–. https://doi.org/10.52214/jla.v44i2.7824
Baseball and Performance Enhancing Drugs. (2013). Bloomberg.
Patrick Antinori, & Rodney J Blackman. (2017). Contextualization of a Shifting Perspective Regarding the Steroid Era. The Sport Journal.
Mitchell, G. (2007, December 13). The Mitchell Report. https://files.mlb.com/mitchrpt.pdf