Steroids in Baseball: A Thesis by Luke Cureton

Table of Contents


Thesis Introduction—————————————————————————2

Types of Steroids——————————————————————————3

Public Image————————————————————————————-4

Fan acceptance/denial———————————————————————5

Fair Play——————————————————————————————–6




1. Abstract

This thesis paper is one that will be centered on the argument of whether or not steroids are good or bad for the sport of baseball. Through citation and balancing both sides of the debate, this thesis shows how influential the steroid era in baseball was and the impact it had directly after its reign. Showing statistical evidence and professional testimonials there is a clear and concise message when reading through this thesis, there is a strong argument for why steroids do not belong in baseball. Touching upon the types of steroids, the public image of baseball, its fan attendance and their denial towards steroids, what fair play is and how it comes into the discussion, the health concerns, and lastly hitting on the topic of integrity; there is an attitude to really consider why steroids where ever praised at any time. The opposing thoughts of steroids being a good thing for baseball are explained and defined as well, both sides are received but a strong lean for anti-steroids is the main argument. Readers will understand and empathize with the author because of overwhelming evidence that steroids have zero place in the game of baseball.

2. Intro

America’s pastime has always been the sport of baseball. This nickname was given to Baseball by President Calvin Coolidge when he stated, “Baseball is our National game.” The reason behind its title is that it displayed everything that an American should be, patient like a batter, intellectual like a pitcher, honest like a baseball, and brave like a performer. This meaning, that the sport was an embodiment of all the right qualities an American desired. It was an opportunity to be seen as something bigger than one’s self. The long standing importance of the game can be attributed to its black and white approach of man vs man and nothing to help each other succeed. Later in time during the late 1980’s through the late 2000’s the game boomed in popularity and then was diminished in the 2010’s for the same reason it boomed; Steroids.

Baseball is not the only sport to have been tainted and altered because of steroid use by its athletes. Track and field, boxing, swimming, and American football have all had their share of doping issues. The reason as to why steroids in baseball is such a monumental issues lies within its fan bases. There are the purists, and the casuals. Baseball purists are people who take the game in its entirety and treasure it the way it is. This group includes former players, business owners, hall of fame ballot voters, and older longtime fans. There is no leeway for change or undocumented aid and they wish to see the game be played with a team of men working together selflessly to achieve a victory.

Baseball fans in the casual variety see the game as recreation and a way to spend time away from home or with family. This group just wishes to be entertained, find something to cheer for, and to see players perform feats they could only dream of. Both fan bases have reasons for why steroids in baseball mattered and did not matter.

As a baseball player who has gone through all levels of play up to the professional level, there is a specific mindset that is possessed by myself about steroid use and why it is not welcomed into the sport of baseball. Training for two decades for anything can wear any person down and for some people to be able to cheat the system to either boost their qualifications for the job, or increase their career length without it being on the basis of merit or skill is frustrating.

Although there are fans that do not dislike steroid use, I will argue in this paper that they are bad for baseball for the following reasons: because of its negative impact upon player’s health, the game’s image, and its integrity.

3. Types of steroids

Before addressing the effects that steroids have had on the United States’ Major League Baseball, one must go over the types of steroids that exist, that are available to the public, and their specific uses.

There are two main types of steroids, Catabolic steroids and Anabolic steroids. Catabolic steroids are natural and are a part of the body’s response to stress. These steroids break down large chemicals into smaller ones, such as when glycogen metabolize into glucose which is used for energy by the body. Some prescription medicines such as Prednisone and hydrocortisone have catabolic steroids in them which are used for a basic need such as reduction of inflammation within the body (Wedro). These drugs can also be used to take care of insect bites and poison ivy when infused with medical cream.

Anabolic Steroids are steroids that mimic testosterone in the body. These steroids are artificial and are not produced naturally nor are a traditional means of curing physical ailment of the common variety. Dr. Benjamin Wedro states that the term ‘Anabolic’ refers to the properties of these drugs to increase production of proteins that act as building blocks for muscle cells, bon, and other tissues within the body. Uses outside of sport for anabolic steroids are to cure certain types of anemia, inadequate testosterone production within the body, or addressing growth failure and short stature in children (Wedro).

Some would agree that there are many uses for anabolic steroids even within the sport community. It is stated by Dr. Benjamin Wedro also that using anabolic steroids to treat major illnesses or injuries is necessary to increase the body’s metabolism and produce more protein. Being America’s pastime, baseball has been in the spotlight and view of the public for over a century and has encountered many icons and heroes of the people such as Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Jackie Robinson. Saying the public image and how people perceive the sport is not an important topic of discussion, would be asinine and misguided. The game of baseball, like many other forms of entertainment, survive from the public’s feelings about the sport and this thesis will address such a thing.

4. Public Image

The steroids era does not have an exact timeline, but it is to be believed to have begun in the late 1980’s and concluded in the late 2000’s. The MLB did not start performance enhancing drug (PED) tests until 2002, which leaves a lot of speculation as to how long steroids have been a part of the game of baseball, and if it had much influence on players, fans, or interest. The image before ‘the steroid era’ was one of cleanliness and trust between the game’s best. Many people looked up to old time players such as Ty Cobb, Lou Gehrig, and Henry Aaron to be reminded of what happens when skill meets hard work. People like to see what they could not do themselves. This is why professional sports are intriguing. If anybody could do what these athletes are doing, than it would not be special.

When an athlete destroys that mindset of an on looking, fan, child, or believer by using drugs to make them elite it conjures up a new representation and history for the sport; and in this case it is baseball.

Players did not get in much trouble as well when caught with a positive drug test. Since drug testing was relatively new, players had the luxury of having to fail multiple times before serving any kind of consequence. Which includes having it publicly released that he had failed a test. The MLB higher ups were scared of what would happen to their sport if more people were to be caught. “The more we test athletes, the more we will, inevitably, discover about their drug use. More positive tests means more “fallen heroes” (Rapp, pg 608).” The lack of accountability during and after the ‘steroid era’ is a reason as to why fans began to leave the game of baseball behind. There was a mentality of, ‘If they don’t care, why should we care?’ According to the’s fan poll in 2005,”The new poll found 23% of fans who believe steroid use is ruining the game of baseball, and another 63% who say it is a serious problem. Just 8% say it is not serious, and 5% believe the game has actually improved because of steroid use (Gillespie).”

Rarely was a player suspended, usually minimally fined, and even after retirement not much could be done. In college if a player is found cheating action is taken immediately. And if the player was found out after departure from the school, their wins were vacated. Fans felt the same urgency was lacking in MLB and cause a rift of trust between the game and its fans.

When it has come to discussion of Hall of Fame candidates, it seems steroids are the topic of grand discussion. Some fans and sportswriters alike suggestively argue if a player had used steroids in any part of their career they should not be eligible at all to be in the Hall of Fame, while others disagree and state that the player still had to be a supreme athlete and perform even with the aid of steroids.

Fans from all across the sport have decided to either be ok with steroid use or against it, and there are reasons behind both schools of thought. Understanding the difference between pro and con about steroids is important if one wants to have an opinion on the matter. Personally, being a fan, and player myself I understand the struggle between keeping the game honest and just simply finding a way to make the game I love become more entertaining and enhanced. Sports that are faster paced have seemingly taken over the large U.S. market and are increasing in popularity as when previously stated baseball has been on the decline. Accepting the good and the bad as well as denying them are pivotal for being a fan of the sport.

5. Fan acceptance/denial

Arguments against steroids in baseball have been made but on the other side of this discussion there have been those who believe that steroids have done the game justice and even saved the sport that was taking a nosedive to irrelevance.  In an article in TheSportster by Craig Keolanui written in June 2015, he states fifteen reasons as to why steroids were good for the sport of baseball. These fifteen reasons are as follows; attention, money, closed gap with the NFL, the game was more entertaining, they saved baseball, more tape measure home runs, more physical marvels, greater run production, the home run chase, Barry Bonds, more five-tool players, better pitching, the 40-40 club, recovery from injuries, and lastly the explosion of home runs. To the common fan this list may not seem like a big deal, but to the average to super baseball fan, all of these things listed have had a grand impact on the game during the time of the steroids era.

According to John-Erik Koslosky of the Motley fool, during the middle of the ‘steroid era’ ‘95-‘01, baseball attendance rate jumped up 44% and the average ticket price for a game went up from $10.65 to $18.99 which is a 78% increase. These numbers were all during Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa’s home run race years. Fans started to not just pay attention to the sport, but romanticized themselves with everything about it such as Craig Keolanui had done. With these statistics some could argue that steroids did not destroy baseball, but saved it. But when word got out that steroids might have been the reason behind so much excitement in the sport years later people began to distrust the league and a downward trend of interest hit MLB yet once again.

In 2004, 43% of Americans identified themselves as baseball fans, and in the next year in a new poll reported by the in 2005, only 39% found themselves to be baseball fans. This is the same percentage as the 1994-95 player’s strike. Using deductive reasoning, it can be suggested that the reason this is so is because of the players that were associated with cheating on steroids. Beloved players that packed stadiums, sold jerseys, and made people believe in the improbable such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Roger Clemons, and more. Even Leaders such as former President George Bush who was a former club owner stated, “Steroids have sullied the game.”

“Life is not fair” can be suggested as one of the most popular quotes adults relay to children growing up and facing struggles. To explain why this is becomes difficult because most adults who say it want the child to experience why the statement is true instead of telling them. Most players find this out quickly while struggling through the minors or being on the cusp of being cut from an organization. When making an honest living goes south by cheating, the person who cheats becomes the reason for why adults pass down the phrase, “life is not fair”.

6. Fair Play

Establishing what is right or what is wrong in the world of sports comes about two topics of discussion. The first topic being rules and the second being what is fair play? When statistical success came about in the Major Leagues it was an attraction for the game. Number barriers and records that held for decades came crumbling down and the sport was hit with invigoration that people could only help but find suspicious. The common knowledge of these sorts were that the players were significantly more built, they ran faster, threw harder and hit balls farther. Something had to have happened to have sparked such a spectacle in the sport. Baseball in the 1990’s was able to get away with using steroids even when steroids were officially banned in 1991.

Because players knew they could not get caught easily and that testing was not an established practice yet, they would use and often abuse them. Steroidal boosts meant a better career for the majority of players which often meant a better home lifestyle. Because there were a lack of rules put in place to stop steroids from plaguing the league, it became too much to keep quiet and for officials to not take notice as well. If the rules of drug testing had been in place at the time of most of the steroid use, the majority of ball players would not have partaken in the risk; simply because the risk had outweighed the reward.

Just as it is seen in today’s MLB, very little amounts of players are taking steroids because of the risk not outweighing the rewards. Back then, there was no punishment set in place for use and being caught, it was almost seen as if it were condoned and allowed to use. Man former players such have come out and said the reason they cheated and used steroids was because everyone was doing it. If everyone was doing it then it surely was ok in the league and their own conscious to use.

The second topic of discussion is what is fair play? Understanding what is considered fair starts with its definition. Merriam-Webster declares that fair or fairness is, “Conforming with the established rules.” This means that anything that is not specifically mentioned as an advantage to use is fair. This usually refers to material things that humans earn or compete over. When it is put into terms of humans themselves however, things become less black and white for people to give a ‘fair’ assessment.

Steroids, were suggested to be a big factor in the growth and diminishment of the game of baseball. This thesis will instill a paradigm shift about the use of steroids and the effects upon players in the Major League Baseball community. Thomas Murray, the author of “Making Sense of Fairness in Sports”, stated, “Almost no one-regards such differences in natural talent as unjust or unfair. Some have better coaches or more favorable training environments. At what point such differences cross the line from inevitable to be debated and iniquitous and deplorable is something to be debated and settled by the people who participate in, understand, and love that sport (Hastings, pg 13).” Thoughts like this make people reflect on what exactly is fair and if cheating really is “cheating” and try to argue that steroids are just as much of an advantage as being naturally gifted with an environment that allows skills to blossom is. If natural ability is enhanced by any means from substances that are not approved than it is cheating. Thoughts from Murray’s work are merely to invoke ‘what-if’ scenarios that have no real long term sustainability behind them. Concepts that are communicated in the previous quote are ones that claim life is not fair in the first place, steroids would only level the playing field.

Off the playing field, steroids still had an effect on players, and without the public really becoming aware of it. In a 2007 LA Times article written by former ESPN writer JA Adande, he stated,” The real damage of the steroids era wasn’t the changes at the top of the record books. It was at the bottom of the rosters, where people who stayed clean lost jobs to players who cheated. Bonds, McGwire and any other superstar you name were going to be great regardless of the substances they used. It was the belief that every average player needed them for that little edge that was dangerous, and the type of mentality that could trickle down to high school kids (Adande, LA Times).” This is a concerning opinion about steroids because it points out that it developed from an action to a mentality. As iconic figures in the sports world during that time frame, it was imperative for superstars to be the best he or she could be on and off the field. Their actions like many other forms of leaders who have millions of people watching them, have a large impact on the youth.

If a high school player wanted to continue to play but felt he was not good enough, he may have been susceptible to taking steroids because his favorite MLB players did and did not receive harsh punishment. It may have seemed like the way to go to that individual. Adande is alluding to the fact that the more people who adopt that mentality, the worse off baseball will be not only at the Major league level, but as a sport in its entirety across the country.

Being a role model in a sport where youth participation is among the top in the United States is crucial to the success of the sport. I suggest that baseball thrives off its early introduction to children and dedication throughout their adolescent lives. Without early adoption of the sport, it becomes troublesome to play it long-term because of its increasing difficulty. Every year a child is bad at the sport the more he or she dislikes it because of the lack of success.

Other than being a role model and discussing fair play in the sport, there are other ways that steroids are a detriment to the game of baseball. For example the many health concerns surrounding the use of steroids are not often talked about but need to be advised to the uneducated.

7. Health

Health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity ( Using unnatural substances to achieve health is not only a risk for a player’s career but his body as well. The use of steroids was so commonly practiced in the 1990’s in sports that it was believed as a revolutionary substance. These steroids were later found to have effected player’s bodies dramatically and unhealthily along with their mental state of beings. “Physiologically, elevations in testosterone concentrations stimulate protein synthesis resulting in improvements in muscle size, body mass and strength (NEJM-Bhasin et al., 1996; 2001).”

Considering this definition of what anabolic steroids can do to the human body, it is evident that a substance with such rapid improvements should be banned from the game of baseball. Baseball is a game of managing failure. It is a sport where success is definitively tracked with statistics, so the more those statistics improve the more the player’s life, career, and esteem will improve. These life improvements are enough to encourage users to continue steroid use no matter what the cost, and that includes their own health. This yearning for success can cause players to begin to overuse steroids.

According to Dr. Gen Kanayama, an instructor for psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; “Overuse of steroids can result in irreversible cardiovascular toxicity, especially atherosclerotic effects and cardiomyopathy….anabolic-androgenic steroid abuse appears to be associated with a range of potentially prolonged psychiatric effects, including dependence syndromes, mood syndromes, and progression to other forms of substance abuse (Kanayama, vol. 98).”

With conscious decisions to use steroids repeatedly a player will fall into an unhealthy state. The athletes that used the steroids did not educate themselves with the dangerous effects of them and only focused on what the substances could do for them on the field. The aftermath is what is concerning for many health officials. In the famous Mitchell Report, written by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, “Steroid users place themselves at risk for psychiatric problems, cardiovascular and liver damage, drastic changes to their reproductive systems, musculoskeletal injury, and other problems. Users of human growth hormone risk cancer, harm to their reproductive health, cardiac and thyroid problems and overgrowth of bone and connective tissue (Rapp, pg. 606).”

With the amount of focus that is placed upon how the game itself is affected by steroids, it is a shame that this much is known but rarely talked about to the public. The substances taken by these ball players are slowly killing them and ruining their ways of life. Yes, they chose to take the substances, but if these things were thoroughly talked about, then maybe people would think more before putting them into their bodies. Even Skeletal issues can be formed when using steroids. Stunted growth caused by premature closing of growth plates and increased rate of muscle strains or ruptures is a small example of a big danger.

As it has been recently revealed for football and their lack of knowledge about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) it is too late for a lot of retired players to get treatment before real harm is done because they were unaware of the risks prior to that. They knew of the risks at a surface level but not those that internally go along with the physicality of the sport. Baseball should learn from that situation and find better ways to clean up the sport so they will not have to catch up like the NFL. The drug test system does not seem to be hard to bypass especially when it is “random”. There needs to be a new protocol for checkups and testing for all the players an equal amount of times. This type of demand would be key to establishing health and well-being for MLB players, a trustworthy relationship between players and fans, and an integrity filled sport that can shed its past discrepancies.

An important risk that most athletes overlook when taking steroids is the HIV/AIDS risk. Some steroids are used by injection with a needle and syringe and when shared between people, small amounts of blood from the person infected with HIV may be injected into the bloodstream of the next person to use it. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. According to the New York State Department of Health, “HIV attacks the body’s defense system, making the body less able to fight off infections and cancers…..there is no cure for vaccine for HIV or AIDS (Anonymous, New York State Department of Health).” The New York State Department of Health also claims that it is also important to be aware that anybody to shoot any drugs, even once, could become infected with HIV.

Being virtuous is a key characteristic that I hope to achieve throughout my life and with that comes having integrity. Payers who go and play the game with integrity are the ones that belong and the players that chose to lose sight of what is ethical lose their integrity and should lose the honor to play the game. Through the game and life, being rich with integrity can get people far on its own and if it was combined with hard work and a pursuit for more, it can become life changing. Simply going through the motions cannot be satisfying to many people, success is what is exciting and this is where a discussion for how to be successful comes into play.

8. Integrity

Sports after the steroid era of baseball have significantly changed. Organizations have implemented new standards as well as new implementations of how to deal with steroid users within their designated sports. A personal belief is that by using steroids shows that a certain athlete is truly not elite enough to continue their athletic journey. To need artificial aid to succeed is not only questionable to athletic prowess but to character as well.

Baseball is a sport that teaches players and fans alike life skills. The game teaches that life does not always go as planned or as practiced. It teaches that failing is the only way to truly understand how to succeed. It teaches that individual efforts are only great when it helps a group collective. Winning for some players may be everything, and steroid use may help them achieve their goal, but to shy away from those life skills just to succeed shows how unprepared an individual is to handle their life issues. For a player to deceive the people that coached, trained, and believed in him shows an utmost lack of respect. These are reasons for why steroids are bad for the game of baseball as well.

Given all the problems in the world that there are, steroid use in baseball may not seem important. But as one can tell, the impact of their presence in the national spotlight can have a tremendous butterfly effect on how people go about their lives. Steroids show dishonor, distrust, weakness, and laziness. These qualities do not mix well with a sport that is trying to be the epitome of American sports and culture, while striving to continue its tradition as “America’s Pastime.”

Rounding out all that has been said and educated, overall, the steroids era was an important piece of sport history. It displayed what not to do, even when it looks as if it is beneficial to both participants and fans alike. Concluding how I feel about steroids can be simplified into “owning your success”. If one one’s their success, it becomes a value that nobody can take away. Many of the previously mentioned baseball players who were caught using steroids have had their accomplishments dragged through the mud because of an idiotic mistake. If they had done the great things that they had accomplished on their own, they would be enjoying the fruits of their success with their image, career, and health intact.

9. Conclusion

Steroids have been a topic of discussion in sports competition for years. From how they became available to athletes to why the athletes needed to take them, they have always had a connotation that rightfully belongs attached to them, and it is a negative one. In addition, steroids changed the identity of sports and tainted the image of America’s past time to unveiling the effects of steroids on the body, it has been seen that nothing but destruction is left for those who involve themselves with them.

The consequences for getting caught are tremendous as well. Shame, banishment, penalization, and regret all await those who try to slide by with artificial gains. Steroids bring no true benefit to the table. Those who use doubt themselves even more than before because they understand they are not honestly doing the work they trained so hard to achieve and accomplish, and at the same time will only be ridiculed, fined, and punished for their usage. The only progress shown from steroid use is the temporary glory and success one may achieve.

Just because one takes steroids, does not mean automatic success. There still needs work to be done and those who never use steroids have the advantage of never slowing down their grind and process. Users get comfortable and lose themselves in their success because they do not have to work as hard to achieve what they want to achieve.

In conclusion, steroids have no place in the sport of baseball because it is character diminishing, physically diminishing, and mentally diminishing. The short term success is gained and enjoyed too quickly; leaving no time for users to see the detrimental effects it will bring to their lives. As it has been stated in this paper, there are multiple risks and negative effects associated with steroids. Those who are for steroids have the same old arguments of that it makes the sport more entertaining or exciting. These arguments are simply not enough to justify the inclusion of steroids. The sport itself has survived for over 100 years because it is entertaining, honest, and challenging.

The thing that attracts fans to sport is simple, people want to see other people do spectacular things that they themselves cannot do. This is what makes sports athletes so polarizing. If average people could do what is seen on television, I suggest that there would be a significant dive in attraction across the sports spectrum. So when someone uses steroids it takes away that amazement of witnessing special people doing special things against other special people.

Baseball is at the pinnacle of awe-inspiration. Hitting a round object with another round object is extremely tough and is understood to be tough for those who have practiced for over two decades. Skills such as these do not come around a dime a dozen. Taking steroids confirms both to the athlete taking them and the fans who her about it, that he or she is not elite and should not be treated as such.

Works Cited

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