A Single Needle; Single Handily Changing the Game
America’s Pastime has been the true root of sports in the United States of America. Baseball blew up in the late 19th century towards the end of the American Civil War. Before there were TV’s, internet, or DVD’s, baseball is what kids did for fun. It became the thing to do if you were a white male going into the 20th century, and that was just the beginning of a long bittersweet road of the game of baseball. Up until the 1990’s many greats had walked in between the lines showing off their pure god given talent, then an era came along that makes every baseball fan cringe, the “Steroids Era.” Steroids started to spread throughout the league like wildfire, and sadly no one was doing anything about it. The only thing administration, owners, authorities, and fans had were suspicion no one knew for sure if these record breaking seasons were real or all just a fluke. The greats like Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams all have been being surpassed in the record books by Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGuire, and plenty more players due to the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. The use of illegal Steroids in baseball has single handily degraded and disgraced the great game that once was proud to be known as America’s Pastime.
The man who started it all and really brought Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) to the baseball scene in the late 1980’s was Oakland Athletics outfielder, Jose Canseco. Once Canseco starting showing his teammates how influential these drugs were to their performance through his own personal achievements it wasn’t long before a large amount of players were using PEDs. Canseco states in his book, Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big that, “About 85% of Major Leaguers have used it” (Canseco). The MLB rarely, if at all tested for steroids during this time of the “Steroids Era” and if they did there was no penalty for testing positive. At the time it was virtually a win win for the players, they could juice up, exceed the stats they could only dream about, and never get in trouble during the process. Performance Enhancing Drugs became an epidemic in the world of baseball, but not only was it enhancing players performance, it was enhancing every aspect of revenue a ball club could ever imagine. The Record books were once again open and ready for business. Athletes such as Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGuire, and so forth were smashing homeruns and going up on the charts little by little for the all time homerun record holder, Hank Aaron. This excitement on the field attracted more fans through these steroid years than baseball had ever seen, and when there are fans there is money, and when there is money there is no concern. The Major League of Baseball had been oblivious to the illegal use of Steroids over the years. Until 2002 there were no penalties for testing positive for PEDs. The new rules stated, “A first time offense would only result in treatment for the player” (Baseball-Almanac). Not one player was sentenced to any suspensions for this crime, until the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) steroid scandal came to light, and brought out many of the All-Stars of the MLB to the top of the list. Victor Cante the founder of BALCO was a god to the sports world. He was the guy that not only supplied athletes with their steroids, but also had ways to cheat the tests so they could come up clean. Testing companies such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the U.S Anti Doping-Agency (USADA) are always trying to improve the efficiency of the tests to make cheating near impossible if not totally full proof, but as those agencies are working to stop the cheaters workers at BALCO labs are finding ways once again come up with a new way to slide by the new and improved tests on the market (Quinn). So in 2005 The MLB created a new testing policy that was accepted by the players and owners that said, “The first positive test will result in a suspension of up to ten days. The second positive test will result in a suspension of thirty days. The third positive test will result in a suspension of sixty days. The fourth positive test will result in a suspension of one full year. Finally, the fifth positive test will result in a penalty at the discretion of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Players will be tested at least once per year, with a chance that several players can be tested numerous times per year” (Baseball-Almanac). That wasn’t the last adjustment Bud Selig, the Commissioner of the Major League of Baseball, was going to make to the steroid testing policy. On December 13, 2007, Greg Mitchell, an investigator who was appointed by Bud Selig in 2006 to investigate the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in the MLB, presented a 409 page report to Selig showing his investigation and revealing 89 alleged players who used steroids during their career (Healey). Once Bud Selig had been shown the report, his 3rd written drug testing policy came in to play which was known as the “Three strikes and you’re out approach” (Verhaeghe). This final policy stated that, “The first positive test would result in a fifty game suspension. The second positive test would result in a one-hundred game suspension. Finally, the third positive test would result in a lifetime suspension from Major League Baseball” (Baseball Almanac). Bud Selig and the rest of the administration inside of the Major League of Baseball had finally seen the light, and properly taken action on how to cut down the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs throughout the MLB.