The idea of players using banned substances has caused an ongoing debate for Major League Baseball since 1990’s. In the most recent years, several players have stepped forward to suggest that the use of banned drugs is widespread in baseball. For instance, David Wells affirmed that about forty percent of players in the Major league use these drugs. On the other hand, Jose Canseco stated in his tell-all book that close to eighty percent of baseball players use steroids. He also credits the use of steroids for his great performance in his entire baseball career. Ken Caminiti also revealed that when he was crowned with the National League MVP award in 1996, he was on steroid use. In 2009, some claims emerged that Alex Rodriguez had earlier on, in 2003, tested positive for steroids, the same year in which he was crowned the American League MVP. These claims reveal that Rodriguez admitted to have been using performance enhancement drugs (abbreviated as PEDs) between the year 2001 and 2003. Another baseball player who had dodged the allegations of using PEDs for quite sometime is Mark McGwire, but recently, he admitted that he had been using them sporadically for over a decade. He even admitted that he was using these drugs in 1998, the year in which he set a single-season home run record (Carroll 24-30).
According to Carroll, the use of steroids in baseball has been finally exposed (30). It is now evident that steroids have been in use in baseball for several decades. Nevertheless, the use of steroids raises several big questions that create controversies about their use in baseball. The first question is whether it actually enhances an individual’s performance, and if yes to what extent. Another question is whether steroids produce negative side effects. Last but not least, it is highly questionable whether the records that are set nowadays are actually a result of the use of steroids.
Research indicates that even though steroids help to enhance performance, they produce appalling negative side effects. At the same time, it is wrong to use steroids in baseball and in other sports because it is actually not worth it. Players should simply play the game the way it was designed to be played with pride, honor and dignity.
A steroid can be defined as a terpenoid lipid that is characterized by a sterane core and other additional functional groups (Carroll 31). The core of a steroid is formed by a carbon structure which is composed of four fused rings. Three of these rings are cyclohexane rings while the other one is a cyclopentane ring. Steroids differ depending on the oxidation states of these rings and the functional groups which are attached to them. Anabolic steroids which are officially referred to as anabolic androgenic steroids (or AAS) are drugs that ape the effects of the male hormone testosterone. In its normal state, testosterone promotes and enhances the growth and development of body muscles. When normal testosterone is therefore supplemented with steroids, it amplifies the development of muscle mass, reduces body fats and enhances endurance. Steroids are mostly used by athletes so that they can try to have the edge in any competition. In the contemporary world, professional sports require very talented athletes and therefore many people are usually ready to do anything to ensure that they get the edge. In some cases athletes can even do things which might put their careers at risk. In baseball, it is believed that steroids can make an individual hit the ball further and longer (Carroll 31-32).
Within the summer of 2003, an anonymous person sent a mysterious liquid to the USADA which turned out to be Tetrahydrogestrinone, an undetectable steroid that is commonly used by some of the top athletes in the world (Silver 327). Later on, it was revealed that the steroid was submitted to the USADA by Trevor Graham, who was a sprint coach to some of the world’s best sprinters. This marked the beginning of the era of the use of steroids in baseball. It was later on established that a chemist known as Patrick Arnold was the one responsible for the development of that steroid in the BALCO labs. In addition, the name of Barry Bond was mentioned as one of the biggest clients of BALCO. Towards the end of 2004, the testing of steroid began under the new collective bargaining agreement of MLB. Barry Bonds went through several random tests before winning his seventh league MVP that year. Within the next few years, several athletes were linked to the use of anabolic steroids and BALCO. Several athletes admitted to have been using steroids while others claimed their innocence (Silver 328-329).
In the year 2007, George Mitchell, a former Senator, released a 409 page report on the use of steroids in baseball, which was compiled after an intensive investigation that went on for twelve months. This report exposed 89 baseball-related cases of individuals who were using steroids. Even though many more athletes admitted to have been using anabolic steroids, a majority of them still denied this fact. Subsequent years after 2007 have witnessed the establishment of much more proof against many MLB players, with most of them asking for apologies. Today, anabolic steroids are widely used by baseball players, as many of them continue to fail drug tests (Carroll 34). Indeed, research indicates that steroids are not only used by baseball players, but they are actually used by players in all other sports. It is therefore not surprising that a day hardly ends without hearing about an athlete failing a drug test or any other general steroid-related issue. Fans and parents usually expect professional athletes to be role models to other people especially the young generation. It is ironic that baseball steroid scandals have escalated the use of steroids in adults and teenagers instead of leading to a decline in their use. This situation has inspired many former athletes such as Canseco Jose, together with several organizations to educate young people about the dangers of anabolic steroids and their side effects and other effects of abusing them (Carroll 35).
Side effects of Steroids
The side effects of steroids range from physical to psychological. From a physical point of view, steroids can make an individual to experience all kinds of changes. Even though they help an individual to increase his muscle weight and endurance, they produce side effects which include severe problems such as cancer and liver damage. Other side effects include testicular atrophy or shrinking, excessive growth or loss of hair and skin conditions among many others. From a psychological point of view, steroids can produce a variety of feelings that range from the feeling of well-being to the feeling of depression. They also produce mood swings in individuals and the feeling of rage which is sometimes referred to as ‘roid rage’. Other undesirable psychological effects include the development of immense violence and aggression (Silver 330-335).
Reward versus Risk
The reward of using steroids is derived from its quick avenue for increased performance, augmented muscle mass and increased endurance. It also produces the feeling of invincibility in individuals. Nevertheless, the risk is quite enormous because it produces permanent physical morbidity and psychotic events such as rapid mood swings, violence and aggression. Steroids can also produce the feelings of depression and suicide attempts. Therefore, the reward is actually almost absolutely not worth it. Surprisingly, athletes continue to abuse steroids for the quick and temporal gain of fame and fortune. For instance, in baseball it is believed that the use of steroids can lead an individual to the path of fame and fortune (Silver 335-340).
The existing controversies on whether Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire Gary Sheffield and several other baseball stars used steroids, and whether it enhanced their game, and the controversy of the infamous steroid-related incident of BALCO which raised a lot of concern in the world of baseball can make us draw several conclusions. First and foremost, it is quite clear that there is no concrete proof as of now to conclude that the use of steroids in baseball has added unfair records to the record book. Nevertheless, there are several things that ought to be considered before making any conclusions. For instance, Barry Bonds went ahead to experience an unbelievable season which saw him set a single season record of home runs that won’t easily surpass the mind of anyone. This record came from a player who normally had an average of thirty five homers in every season. According to Silver, it is difficult to explain how he could have such a sudden jump in home runs, though this might be attributed to his maturity in the game and the possibility of him having a dream season (340-342). Another example is Roger Maris who went ahead to hit sixty one home runs, yet he was a player who usually never hit many runs. People did not point fingers at his performance but assumed that he had a magical season just like Bonds and many other players did (Silver 343).
According to Bathe, a former MLB player who featured in the 1989 World Series, it is not easy to determine if a player is using steroids unless clear evidence comes out (Bathe, Pars. 9-10). Nevertheless, he asserts that it is not easy to produce performances like those of Barry Bonds, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and other great ballplayers consistently. Bathe asserts that steroids are not good for the game (Bathe, Par. 11). He states that even though they enhance quick muscle explosion, enhanced performance and endurance, they ultimately cause excessive harm to an individual in the long run. For instance, they may lead to physical damage and the development of psychotic episodes which will last forever.
In conclusion, the bottom line is quite simple: players should play the game the way it was designed to be played. They should play with pride, honor and dignity, and most of all; they should refrain from using steroids because it is actually not worth it.