Steroid Use in Baseball: A Social Injustice?
In the year of 1998 the sport of baseball ruled the landscape of the sports world as people all over the country were watching Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa race towards the single-season home run record. Major League Baseball, the ruling body of professional baseball in the United States, was all too thrilled with their newfound popularity and growing revenues. The game of baseball had long been considered “the” American pastime, but entering the 98’ season the league was still searching for ways to reopen the enthusiasm, and wallets, of baseball fans that had lost interest in the sport, largely due to the strike-shortened campaign in 1994. The home run race between McGwire and Sosa that took place that year would solve the league’s problems, but it would later more notoriously come to mark what is known as the “Steroid Era” in baseball. Steroids and the use of various other performance-enhancing drugs in the sport of baseball would become such a prevalent social issue that the United States Congress would eventually conduct its’ own official investigation into the matter. The entire country began to tune in on television or buy tickets to the game just to catch a glimpse or, if you’re really lucky, the record-breaking home run ball off of Sosa or McGwire’s bat. The game appeared to have recaptured the interest of America, and Major League Baseball was flourishing. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both went on to break Roger Maris’ long-standing record of 61 home runs that year, with totals of seventy and sixty-six home runs respectively. A few years later McGwire’s record of seventy was surpassed by one Barry Bonds who smacked 73 home runs in 2001. Players and teams throughout the league were shattering all kinds of records. Interest from the fans and offensive output by the players, in the historically numbers-driven game of baseball (baseball has a statistic for nearly everything), had never been higher. This would all change when a massive steroid scandal was exposed and placed a black-eye on the sport forever. There is no way of knowing beyond a doubt the identity of the first professional baseball player to employ steroids as a way to advance their performance. However, the most commonly referenced individual in terms of being at the vanguard of the steroid use in baseball is Jose Canseco. Canseco was accused of taking steroids in October of 1988 by a Washington Post baseball writer named Thomas Boswell who cited Jose Canseco as being “the most conspicuous example of a player who has made himself great with steroids.” Canseco denied the report, but would later admit to the personal use of performance enhancing drugs in his book titled “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ’Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” that was released in 2005. Canseco also names numerous other players that he claimed took steroids or performance enhancing drugs in his book. On November 18, 1988 the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 created a penal guideline for the distribution or possession of anabolic steroids for nonmedical use (“Timeline” 1-2).
Beginning with Canseco in the late 80’s and continuing through to the new millennium, murmurings regarding the use of steroids in baseball grew louder and louder until Major League Baseball could no longer ignore the issue. On August 7, 2002 the players and owners agreed to set a drug testing program into place. They agreed to start anonymous tests in the 2003 season, with positive tests not resulting in any punitive action by the league. The league discovered that between 5-7% of the players tested positive and began random testing in 2004. In December of 2003, ten major league players including Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire were asked to testify in front of a grand jury regarding their connections to a steroid-distribution ring involving the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Nearly one year later it was reported that Jason Giambi admitted using human...
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