Steroid use in sports has been a problem for many years now, and over the past few months it has become one of the most talked about issues, being discussed not only on Sports Center on a daily basis, but on national network news as well. An early appearance of steroid use in the national spotlight was when Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson tested positive at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul after running a 9.79 in the 100 meters which then made him the fastest man in the world. Just 62 hours later, Olympic officials entered his room and confiscated his gold medal due to his positive test. He was banned for two years. He attempted a comeback a few years later, but again tested positive in 1993 and was banned for life.
Other than a few athletes testing positive in Olympic competition every now and then, steroids didnʼt seem to be that much of an issue in sports. Speculation on some of the massive home run hitters in baseball and the astronomical numbers they have been putting up followed by the release of retired player and admitted user Jose Cansecoʼs tellall book, have brought this issue to the forefront.
Fans are now left wondering which records are tainted and which ones were legitimately broken. After Cansecoʼs book became big news, The U.S. Congress gotinvolved and held a hearing on Steroids in baseball. This witch hunt did nothing but make baseball look even worse. Witnesses hid behind the Fifth Amendment and the details of baseballʼs drug testing policy were made public.
This policy is nowhere near strict enough and there are several steroids that are not tested for while masking agents are also not tested for. To add insult to injury, the consequences of testing positive are laughably lenient. After the first offense a player is suspended without pay for 10 days. For a second offense a player gets 30 days unpaid. On the third offense he gets 60 days unpaid. For a fourth offense, a player gets suspended without pay for an entire season. And last but not least, after five positive tests, its up to the commissioner to determine the playerʼs fate. What ever happened to three strikes and youʼre out?
The playerʼs association and baseball have got to get together and come to an agreement for stricter testing policies. They are testing randomly now and that is a step in the right direction, but the consequences for testing positive are far too lenient when you consider that the integrity of the game is being damaged. One player, the Devil Rayʼs Alex Sanchez has already tested positive and been suspended 10 days without pay. What exactly the players test positive for is not revealed publicly although it has been speculated that steroid use was the culprit in this case. The testing system seems to be working for now, but it should be looked at in the offseason, making the consequences much tougher and hopefully eliminating loopholes, as well.
Baseball isnʼt the only sport that has steroid issues. Recently, after a report on “60 minutes” about a doctor in South Carolina, it was discovered that this same doctor prescribed steroids to several Carolina Panthers football players. Coincidentally, and this may make Eaglesʼ fans cringe, they were prescribed in the weeks leading up to the NFC Championship game when the Eagleʼs were beaten by the Panthers. The NFL is looking into this further, not wanting to see its image dragged through the mud as baseballʼs was.
Several suspensions and more playerʼs names will almost certainly be added to the list of athletes that were involved with that same doctor. This problem is only just beginning. Weʼll have to wait and see as to who tests positive between now and the end of the season in Major League Baseball. If any marquee names are suspended, baseballʼs image could be tarnished even more and some of the hallowed records that were broken may have to have an asterisk put next to them.
Fans will still go to the ballparks and the sport probably wonʼt lose as many fans as it did during the strike, but kids may not look up to their heroes with the same admiration they once did, knowing that they cheated to get where they are.