In the past, breaking a record in a sport like baseball meant people thought the record breaker was a great athlete and had something special above and beyond the majority of his or her competitors. Now, the thought is often that the person may have used a performance enhancing drug, like steroids. The use of these kinds of drugs has been a serious topic in baseball, both at the Major and Minor League levels. It has also been a point of discussion for college and high school athletes, as the concept of taking steroids in order to be more effective as an athlete has been one that has started early for many people. Whether suggested by coaches or other players, many athletes are exposed to the world of drugs that enhance their performance at early ages. Taking these drugs can be risky, but not doing so can mean not being able to remain competitive in some cases. Despite the fact that the drugs are illegal in baseball and other sports, their use is rampant.
In order to really understand the issue and everything that surrounds it, one needs to look at the background of the problem and review the literature that relates to it. From that point, conclusions can be drawn about performance enhancing drug use in baseball. Those conclusions may be able to be extended to other sports, as well. Since steroids and similar performance enhancing drugs all have similar side effects, they are used by athletes in many different sports. That being the case, there is more than just baseball on the line where problems are concerned. For purposes of this paper, however, the researcher has chosen to limit the focus and scope to baseball specifically. There A4 are two main problems with steroids in baseball: the illegality and medical dangers of the drugs themselves, and the damage to the reputation of baseball (and/or specific players) when these drugs are found to have been used and the story is picked up by the media.
Baseball players and other athletes are always looking for ways to enhance their performance. They may want to hit stronger, run faster, throw harder, or any combination of those things. This desire to improve and to be better than their competition has been going on for a very long time, and shows no signs of stopping. Because of these athletes' desire to perform well in their chosen sport, they may begin taking steroids or other performance enhancing drugs (Diacin, A5 Parks, & Allison, 2003). While the drugs do enhance their ability to perform athletically, there are many issues that come from taking them. They can cause heart problems, anger issues, and significant organ damage (Johnson, 1990). They also cause reputation damage to the player and the team when the use of the drugs is discovered (Johnson, 1990). The beginning of any significant steroid controversy was in 1956, when Russian athletes used anabolic steroids at the World Games (Diacin, Parks, & Allison, 2003). Since that time there have been many other cases of steroid use, and baseball is one of the sports where it has seemed to become commonplace very quickly.
Players such as Alex Sanchez, Jorge Piedra, and Carlos Almanzar have all faced suspensions for performance enhancing drug use in recent years (Players, 2006). Each year, players are suspended. Some insist that they are innocent and will file appeals, others apologize and do not try to say they did not take steroids, and many simply do not comment on the suspension at all. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding steroids for athletes, and it is an important issue facing baseball and other sports (Yesalis, et al, 1993). One of the main ways many have suggested to curb the use of steroids is through drug testing, which would deter many athletes from using substances they know to be unapproved or controlled (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2001).
There A6 are critics of these tests, though. They argue that there is a right to privacy that is being violated by the tests, and that they single out athletes in a manner that is unfair, since not everyone is tested (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2001). Additionally, the argument against testing states that athletes who are not tested at a specific time will begin looking for ways in which they can cheat when they are tested in the future, thus negating the value and validity of the test itself (McCabe & Ricciardelli, 2001). If it is not acceptable to test these athletes for steroid use, it is likely that the use (and abuse) of the drugs will continue. Without testing, however, the problem of reputation becomes moot. With no test to show that an athlete has been taking steroids, there is no media backlash about that particular athlete, team, or sport (Diacin, Parks, & Allison, 2003). That can save face from a public relations standpoint, but it does little to actually keep the game honest and/or protect the athletes from the physical and mental consequences of taking performance enhancing drugs.
The Mitchell Report is the largest piece of evidence and information when it comes to baseball players and their use of performance enhancing drugs. The Report was the compilation of 21 months of investigation and is 409 pages long (Mitchell, 2007). It was released in December of 2007 and names 89 players who allegedly used steroids or some other type of drug to enhance their performance (Mitchell, 2007). The report also made many recommendations about what should be done in order to make baseball better and safer, as well as to restore and then keep its good reputation. More and stronger testing was recommended, and for a wider variety of drugs (Mitchell, 2007). Additionally, the report concluded that it was not only the fault of the players, but of baseball as a whole for not recognizing and addressing the problem sooner. Trying to go back and find every player who had used performance enhancing drugs would not have any real benefit, stated the Report, but the goal should be to eliminate the use of these drugs moving forward (Mitchell, 2007).
In the information examined for this paper, there were two main points noted: that there are still large numbers of performance enhancing drugs being used in baseball, and that baseball still has somewhat of a public relations problem because of that usage. Many people still attend baseball games and cheer for their favorite teams and players, but there are others who have moved away from supporting the sport because of its inability to control the illegal drug use of many of the players. That is hurting revenue, because it is not just that fewer people are attending the games. When these people stop supporting baseball or a particular player or team, that also cuts down on the amount of money spent on team souvenirs and gear such as jerseys, hats, and other items. While that many not seem like much of a problem, it can really add up to a lot of money over time. The PR problem of steroids in baseball has to be addressed, as do the physical and emotional problems that can come along with using performance enhancing drugs. Both are detrimental to the sport and the players.
The Mitchell Report A7 set the tone for a lot of repentance when it first came out, with big names like Mark McGwire coming forward to publicly apologize. Over time, though, this behavior waned. In 2013, six years after the report came out, many players who are suspended for performance enhancing drug use just keep quiet about it. Others say it is untrue and that they will appeal. Few take responsibility for their own actions and choices the way McGwire did. Whether that indicates a shift in the idea of taking responsibility cannot really be determined, although it may appear that way to outsiders. It is more than just not "fessing up" to taking illegal or banned substances, though. These players are also harming their bodies and minds with the drugs they are ingesting in an effort to be better at the game they play. They must feel it is worth the risk, but they are also setting an example for young people who want to play sports and who look up to them. In that sense, they are harming much more than themselves over the long run, which is worthy of consideration.
Sociologically, strain theory A9 addresses the way these athletes are handling their situation. This theory was created by Emile Durkheim and advanced by many others who came after him. It states that social structures may pressure otherwise law-abiding citizens to commit crimes (Agnew, 1992). Because of these pressures, those who choose to use steroids may overlook the serious nature of what they are doing and the damage that can be caused, along with some of the changes they undergo. These changes may be much more obvious to others, such as teammates, friends, and family members. Steroids can cause sleeplessness, hallucinations, and anxiety, along with the aforementioned rage and organ damage. Not all of these problems will be reversible once the steroid use has stopped. Permanent damage to the players and to the reputation of the game is being done by those who continue to take performance enhancing drugs, but the pressure to do so may outweigh that information in the minds of the players who are making that particular choice.
Not every player who takes performance enhancing drugs is likely doing so because of strain theory. There are other reasons why a person would make that choice. However, the reasons behind the choices made by these players may not be as important as the effects their choices are having. Even without the concerns over their own health and safety, they should be aware of the reputation that the game of baseball is getting. In turn, that can affect not only ticket sales and profit margins, but also the way young people look at the game and the athletes they idolize. Up and coming baseball players in high school and college may already begin to feel the pressure to take illegal substances to enhance their performance, which can have serious long-term consequences for them.
Many players are in good shape through their younger years, but as they get older they will face a significant number of health problems based on their past use of banned substances like steroids. By that time, there is nothing that can be done to reverse the damage. Additionally, some good athletes who would have done well in the sport may decide not to play it because they do not want the pressure to take these drugs. That could cause baseball teams to lose out on excellent talent, which is worth considering. Overall, though, it does not appear that baseball is doing enough to curb steroid use in its players, even after the Mitchell Report and the changes that were made in the wake of it. Each year, there are still players being suspended for illegal drugs that will enhance their performance on the field.
Baseball is a sport that many Americans love to play and love to watch. It has been the national pastime for a number of years, and is part of what often first comes to mind when people are asked about what they consider to be "American." The steroid use that has plagued the sport in recent years, though, has put a damper on it for a large number of people who used to be fans. It has also affected the people who may have wanted to play the sport at some point in their lives, because they may end up feeling as though they have to choose between a life of illegal substance use and a life without playing the game they love. Between the health risks of taking steroids, the reputation damage that is being done to the sport of baseball, and the harm that could be done by encouraging young people to abuse performance enhancing drugs to get into playing baseball professionally, there are important issues that can and should be addressed to make the sport "cleaner" for everyone involved.
Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory. Criminology 30(1), 47-87
Diacin, M. J., Parks, J. B., & Allison, P. C. (2003). Voices of male athletes on drug use, drug testing, and the existing order in intercollegiate athletics. Journal of Sport Behavior, 26(1): 1-16
Johnson, M.D. (1990). Anabolic steroid use in adolescent athletes. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 37:1111-1123
McCabe, M. P., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2001). Parent, peer, and media influences on body image and strategies to both increase and decrease body size among adolescent boys and girls. Adolescence, 36: 225-240.
Mitchell Report: Summary and recommendations. (2007). Retrieved from http://files.mlb.com/summary.pdf
Players suspended under baseball's steroids policy. (2006). ESPN. Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2474192
Yesalis, C.E., Kennedy, N.J., Kopstein, A.N., & Bahrke, M.S. (1993). Anabolic-androgenic steroid use in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association, 270:1217-1221.