PEDs and Baseball: An Unfair Game


"Three balls and two strikes. The overshift is on. And Bacsik deals. And Bonds hits one high. Hits it deep! It is out of here! 756! Bonds stands alone! He is on top of the all-time home run list. What a special moment for Barry Bonds. And what a special moment for these fans here in San Francisco."

The voice of San Francisco Giants’ broadcaster Duane Kuiper filled my living room on an August evening in 2007. Barry Bonds had just broken the record for most home runs in the history of baseball, and the entire city of San Francisco was going crazy.

Like most fans, I remember following Bonds’ entire 2007 season earnestly, waiting for him to hit that historic home run. When it finally happened, I jumped up in the air with joy.

March 23, 2011; San Francisco, CA, USA; Major League Baseball former player Barry Bonds leaves after the third day of his perjury trial at the Phillip Burton Federal Building. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

So imagine my disappointment when the news broke that Bonds was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in front of a grand jury when he testified that he never knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Bonds, like so many other baseball players, fell into the trap of using PEDs, which are any kind of substance, pill, or injection that aids a player’s athletic performance. Examples include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, and testosterone.

In baseball, PED-use was prevalent since the early days of the sport in the late 1800s, but was first challenged in 1988, when a Washington Post writer accused Jose Canseco of using steroids. Three years later, commissioner Fay Vincent banned steroids from baseball. Since then, Major League Baseball (MLB) has enforced stricter rules on PED-users, suspending a player for a lengthy period of time if he is caught.

However, this has not stopped players from using PEDs, as the Mitchell Report (a research paper on PEDs done by former US Senator George Mitchell) stated that there has been a gradual increase in PED-use since the 1980s, which is extremely alarming.

Players use PEDs to cheat their way into getting into the major leagues and breaking historical records, which is morally wrong from each and every standpoint and hurts the integrity of the game. Also, PED-use can lead to adverse health effects that can negatively alter a player’s life, both physically and mentally.

Although the league has taken a strong stance against PEDs, the suspensions that it imposes on convicted users are not strict enough. Players who are caught taking PEDs should immediately be banned from baseball for life because their actions harm not only themselves with potentially fatal health effects, but also disgrace the integrity of the game through cheating and tainting of historical records.

Taking PEDs can improve one’s athletic ability, but it may also result in serious, life-altering health effects. The most commonly used PEDs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are anabolic steroids and testosterone, both of which build muscle mass and strength in different ways.

A study done by Dr. Robert Weatherby of Southern Cross University found that “anabolic steroids, even at doses 50 times less than those commonly used by steroid abusers, significantly increased susceptibility to viral infections and cancers by weakening a vital part of the body’s immune system”

They found that steroid use has effects on one’s psychology, where their empathy towards others is reduced, leading to a change in personality. This ultimately ends with a criminal or violent offense, which is a result of what researchers describe as “roid rage.”

One example of this is Rob Garibaldi, a minor-league ballplayer who was rejected by pro scouts because of his lack of size and power. So,

Rob Garibaldi died too soon because of steroids.

Courtesy: California Watch

he turned to anabolic steroids to improve his performance, and as a result, suffered from depression, rage, and delusional behavior.

One early morning in 2002, Garibaldi committed suicide in his parents’ car. A young man who just wanted to reach his dream had his life taken away because of steroids.

Testosterone has a similar effect, changing one’s personality for the worse. Scientists found that it reduces sensitivity, diminishing a person’s obedience and compliancy, which ultimately leads to them refusing to follow the law, resulting in serious repercussions.

Also, the same study from Southern Cross University showed that “the effectiveness of natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell crucial to the body’s immune system, was reduced by 20% in those administered with the testosterone,” which can result in the body’s inability to react to viruses and cancerous cells.

The serious health effects of PEDs such as anabolic steroids and testosterone definitely should not be overlooked. While a player may simply be looking to boost his athletic performance, he may receive much more than he bargained for in these detrimental, and, in some cases, fatal health effects.

Often times, an athlete does not take a performance-enhancing drug because he wants to; he does it because he has to. The baseball world is similar to that of a corporate business, where players can be demoted or promoted to various levels, with the ultimate goal being the major leagues.

The only difference is that in baseball, one can “cheat” his way to the upper levels by simply using PEDs. Minor leaguers who spend their whole lives working to play just one game in the majors can suddenly realize their dream with a help of a few pills.

Ninety percent of all drafted players never spend a day in the major leagues, and using PEDs are often a player’s only chance to reach his goal, which deeply disgraces the integrity of the game.

From a young age, we are brought up under the presumption that only hard work can lead to success. However, PEDs have made it possible to skip the hard work and still reach one’s goal. This raises the issue of what values we are instilling into our youth by telling when their dreams of becoming a professional ballplayer can be achieved simply by taking pills.

Those who do take pills, risk it all, and get away with it have a better chance of achieving greatness, which results in the tainting of achievements and records all across baseball.

Similar to how an A-minus student can steal the answers to tests and become an A-plus student, a baseball player can take PEDs and become a superstar.

Sep 4, 2011; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Jason Giambi (23) during an at bat against the San Diego Padres during the ninth inning at PETCO Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In 2007, the “Mitchell Report” by former Senator George Mitchell released the names of 89 MLB players who allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. Among them included the aforementioned Barry Bonds (who holds the record for most home runs in MLB and most in a single-season), Mark McGwire (who held the single-season record before Bonds), Jason Giambi (MVP winner and five-time All-Star), and Roger Clemens (perceived as one of the five best pitchers in MLB history).

Without PEDs, they were already great players, but with PEDs, they blossomed into becoming the best players in their respective era. For example, Bonds hit 34 home runs in 1999. In 2000, when he started dramatically increasing his PED-use with trainer Greg Anderson, Bonds hit 49 home runs. The year after, he set a record when he hit 73 home runs in a single season.

Everyone, from players to politicians and even President Bush spoke out against PED use following the Mitchell Report. Senator Jim Bunning had perhaps the most striking quote, saying, “I believe that those players who tried to gain an unfair advantage by using these substances should have their records stripped”.

I could not agree more with him. As fans, we want our athletes to break records and achieve greatness with their own, natural talents, not by taking pills. We also want to be able to tell future generations that we witnessed these athletes accomplish great things thanks to their hard work and determination, not by sticking a needle into their bodies.

It is unfair to players who played by the rules and did not use PEDs, as they have been cast aside in the shadows of these incoherent, cheating monsters. Those who used steroids and other drugs to enhance their odds of success have completely destroyed the integrity of not only themselves, but also the game of baseball.

Admittedly, some might argue that because a large percentage of players are using PEDs, it is okay to take them in order to level out the playing field.

This is no different than cheating on a test because everybody else in the class is cheating as well. Using drugs to enhance one’s athletic performance is morally wrong and should not be done, regardless of how many other people are participating in this illegal activity.

The use of performance-enhancing drugs is a disgrace to baseball, hurting the game’s integrity and the health of players.

My proposal to solve this issue, as mentioned already, is simple: ban those who use PEDs for life. Baseball players and athletes in general need to realize that there are much more important things in life than hitting home runs and striking out batters.

The consequences that can stem from taking PEDs are much more impactful than the success that one may have by using drugs to enhancing their performance, not to mention how it is morally wrong.

If a rule is set up where players are banned from baseball for life if they are caught using performance-enhancing drugs, the results will show immediately. Players should be subjected to weekly drug-tests, and if there is even a trace of an illegal substance found, then it’s “bye-bye baby.”

Although this may be a harsh consequence, it will surely eliminate any steroid or drug use in baseball, as I can guarantee that no player wants to be banned from the game. I am a staunch opponent of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, and I will not rest easy until the sport is cleaned of drug users.

I hope that I have inspired you today to take a stance against this shameful act, and that you will join me in the fight against PED-use.