Banned substances in baseball

Banned substances in baseball

The question of steroid use in baseball has been an ongoing issue for Major League Baseball since the mid 1990s.Several players have come forward in recent years to suggest that drug use is rampant in baseball. David Wells stated that "25 to 40 percent of all Major Leaguers are juiced". [ [ Boomer Bombshell, Sports, February 27, 2003] ] José Canseco stated on "60 Minutes" and in his tell-all book "" that as many as 85% of players used steroids, and that he credited steroid use for his entire career. [ [ Canseco credits steroids for his career,, February 14,2005] ] Ken Caminiti revealed that he won the 1996 NL MVP award while on steroids. [ Totally Juiced, Sports, June 3, 2002] ]

Effects on health

On February 17, 2003, Baltimore Orioles pitching prospect Steve Bechler from Medford, Oregon, collapsed and died on the practice field at spring training of heat stroke. The medical examiner ruled that the over-the-counter herbal supplement (not a steroid) Ephedra played a significant role in Bechler's death. One week later, Bud Selig banned all minor league players from using Ephedra. Major League players were not held to the same rules. [ [ Medical examiner: Ephedra a factor in Bechler death, USAToday, March 13, 2003] ]

Former player Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League MVP, detailed the health consequences he suffered from steroid use, telling "Sports Illustrated" that "his testicles shrank and retracted; doctors found his body had virtually stopped producing its own testosterone and that his level of the hormone had fallen to 20% of normal." [ Totally Juiced, Sports, June 3, 2002] ]

The chase for 62

During the 1998 season, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire competed in a race to break the home run mark previously set by Roger Maris. By the season's end, Sosa had eclipsed the record with 66 home runs while McGwire set the single season record by hitting 70 home runs. While the chase proved to be a watershed event in baseball's recovery following the 1994 players strike, both players were also dogged by suspicion over their use of supplements—In McGwire's case, androstenedione [, [ Opponents Don't Fault McGwire For Pills] , New York Times, August 25, 1998.] and in Sosa's case creatine. [, [,9171,997152,00.html Crazy for Creatine] , accessed May 23, 2007.]

The next year the two were in a similar race and McGwire hit 65 homers and Sosa 63. By 2001 Barry Bonds was hitting home runs at an incredible pace. Bonds broke McGwire's record by hitting 73 home runs. Many observers found it unlikely that Bonds could hit home runs at such a pace given his age (he turned 37 during the 2001 season) without supplementary help.

Congressional investigation

The nutrition center BALCO, was accused of distributing steroids to many star players, most notably Bonds. Baseball has attempted to toughen its drug policy, beginning a plan of random tests to players. Players such as Ryan Franklin and others were handed suspensions as short as ten days. However, a Congressional panel continued to argue that the penalties were not tough enough, and took action.

Many top players, including Rafael Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa, Canseco and Curt Schilling were summoned on March 17, 2005 to testify in front of Congress. During the session, Canseco admitted his steroid use which he claims was perfectly acceptable during the 1980s and early 90's. Palmeiro denied all steroid use during his career, [ Palmeiro's shameful end, Yahoo Sports, August 1, 2006] ] while McGwire refused to discuss the issue, contending that he would be considered guilty no matter what he said. His repeated statement "I'm not here to discuss the past," [ [ He won't say: McGwire deflects panel's questions about steroid use, San Francisco Chronicle, March 18, 2005] ] became the most highlighted moment of the proceedings.

Palmeiro, who was listed in Canseco's book as a user along with McGwire, denied Canseco's claims and told Congress that those claims were absolutely erroneous. The committee had stated that baseball had failed to confront the problems of performance-enhancing drugs. The committee was disturbed by the accepted use of steroids by athletes because it created a bad persona of players who in many cases are role models to many of the aspiring youth. During the testimonies the players called to Congress offered their condolences for youthful athletes who had committed suicide after using performance-enhancing drugs.

Five months after the Congressional hearing, information came out indicating Palmeiro had already tested positive for steroids and knew it when he spoke before Congress. He appealed but the test results and ensuing suspension were upheld. Mark McGwire, whose credentials could arguably satisfy expectations for first ballot Hall of Fame election, was denied election in his first year, with many voters citing McGwire's perceived refusal to speak at the Congressional Investigation.

BALCO scandal

During this period, Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson and BALCO head Victor Conte (also connected to Jason Giambi and Canseco), were not subpoenaed in California by the House Committee for investigation.

As a result of pressure from Congress, baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association began applying stricter regulations and applied a zero tolerance policy in correspondence to performance enhancing drugs. On August 1, 2005, Palmeiro tested positive for performing enhancing substances and was suspended ten days. [ Palmeiro's shameful end, Yahoo Sports, August 1, 2006] ] Once thought to be a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of only four players to have both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro's legacy has now been called into question. Palmeiro's career would quickly die as he would retire soon after his suspension was lifted.

The Bonds controversy continues, especially now that he has surpassed the All-Time Home Run record with 762 career home runs; the media continues to pressure Bonds with questions over the issue. In 2006, the book "Game of Shadows" was published offering researched claims that Bonds' trainer was providing illegal performance enhancers to Bonds and other athletes. Bonds had admitted that he did use a clear substance and lotion given to him by his trainer but had no idea that they were any sort of performance enhancers. Bonds claimed that to his knowledge, the substances given to him were legal to treat his arthritis.

Not everyone believes Bonds has used steroids. Some writers, despite Bonds' testimony under oath, still claim Bonds is innocent. Sportswriter Dave Zirin, who believes the attacks on Bonds stem more from racism than cheating, defends Bonds against accusations of steroid use:

[ | Why Barry Bonds in Not on Steroids: The Case for Reasonable Doubt]

2006 Baseball steroids investigation

On March 29, 2006, ESPN learned that former Senator and Disney chairman George J. Mitchell would head an investigation into past steroid use by Major League Baseball players, including San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. Mitchell was appointed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig in the wake of controversy over the book "Game of Shadows", which chronicles alleged extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs, including several different types of steroids and growth hormone by Bonds. Selig has acknowledged that the book, by way of calling attention to the issue, is in part responsible for the league's decision to commission an independent investigation. A report of the investigation was released on December 13, 2007 and named more than 80 former and current baseball players.cite web|url=,0,4031096.story|title=Many high-profile names will make Mitchell Report|publisher=Newsday|author=Davidoff, Ken|date=2007-12-13] cite news|author=Duff Wilson |coauthor=Michael S.Schmidt |title=Baseball Braces for Steroid Report From Mitchell |url= |publisher=The New York Times |date=2007-12-13 |accessdate=2007-12-13]

Selig did not refer to Bonds by name in announcing the investigation, and many past and present players will be investigated. Mitchell took on a role similar to that of John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose's alleged gambling in the late 1980s.

On June 6, 2006, Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jason Grimsley's home was searched by federal agents. He later admitted to using human growth hormone, steroids, and amphetamines. According to court documents, Grimsley failed a baseball drug test in 2003 and allegedly named other current and former players who also used drugs. On June 7, 2006 he was released by the Diamondbacks, reportedly at his own request.

MLB steroid policy

Over most of the course of Major League Baseball history, steroid testing was never a major issue. However, after the BALCO steroid scandal, which involved allegations that top baseball players had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball finally decided to issue harsher penalties for steroid users. The policy, which was accepted by Major League Baseball players and owners, was issued at the start of the 2005 season and went as follows:

A first positive test resulted in a suspension of 10 games, a second positive test resulted in a suspension of 30 games, the third positive test resulted in a suspension of 60 games, the fourth positive test resulted in a suspension of one full year, and a fifth positive test resulted in a penalty at the commissioner’s discretion. Players were tested at least once per year, with the chance that several players could be tested many times per year. (See: List of Major League Baseball players suspended for steroids)

This program replaced the previous steroid testing program under which, for example, no player was even suspended in 2004. Under the old policy, which was established in 2002, a first-time offense would only result in treatment for the player, and the player would not even be named. The 2005 agreement changed this rule so that first-time offenders were named and suspended.

In November 2005, MLB owners and players approved even tougher penalties for positive tests than the ones in place during the 2005 season. Under the new rules, a first positive test would result in a 50-game suspension, a second positive test would result in a 100-game suspension, and a third positive test would result in a lifetime suspension from MLB.

These new penalties are much harsher than the previous ones. The new steroid policy finally brings MLB closer in line with international rules, as well as with the NFL, which has long taken a tough stance on those caught using steroids.

On March 30, 2006, Bud Selig launched an investigation on the alleged steroid use by players such as Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield as the weight of books like Game of Shadows emerged. The inquiry into steroids' use in baseball is expected to go back no further than 2002, when the MLB started testing players for performance-enhancing drugs.

See also

*Mitchell Report (baseball)
*Major League Baseball drug policy
*List of Major League Baseball players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs
*Doping (sport)


Further reading

* Will Carroll. 2005. "The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems". Ivan R. Dee, Pub. ISBN 156663668X.
* Nate Silver, "How Much Do Statistics Tell Us About Steroids." Pp. 326-342 in Jonah Keri, Ed., "Baseball Between the Numbers". New York: Basic Books, 2006. ISBN 0-465-00596-9.

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