Steroids Making Baseball A Farce

Jason Campos

Perhaps a truthful modern image of baseball could best be displayed in a commercial with the following scenario: a smiling bulked up player with a needle stuck in his backside and white letters below that read “Got steroids?”

Forget about juiced baseballs. What about juiced ballplayers? It is stark reality, folks. An unknown percentage of major league baseball players are users/abusers of the illegal substance known as steroids. The issue has raised concerns over players’ health, the drug’s place in the game, and the legitimacy of the recently established home run records.

The desired effect of steroids is increased muscle mass. If included with strength training and specific diet, the drug becomes even more effective. However, there are also many undesirable health effects from steroid use: uncontrolled bouts of rage, damage of the liver and heart, shrinkage and dysfunction of genitalia, and strokes.

The topic first came to the forefront a few weeks ago when former slugger Jose Canseco announced his retirement. Canseco, long suspected as a steroid user, stated that he plans to write a book about steroid use in baseball. The one time Boston Red Sox player said that he believed 85 percent of ball players are on the juice.

The issue received renewed attention when the “Sports Illustrated” writer Tom Verducci wrote an eye-opening article on steroid use in professional baseball in the June 3, 2002 issue. The story focused on former National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti, who admitted to using the illegal substance during the 1996 campaign, the year he won the award.

In Verducci’s article, Caminiti, now out of the game, recounted the last few years of his career and his initial use of steroids beginning in 1996. An injury to his left rotator cuff prompted him to travel south of the border to Tijuana, Mexico where steroids are sold legally in drug stores. The drugs, he said, where initially to help him in his rehab.

Caminiti’s saga has these notable high-lites: career high in home runs (42) in the MVP season, multiyear contract that earned him millions, numerous injuries, a serious drug habit and health problems (his body can not produce a sufficient amount of the hormone testosterone on its own).

Caminiti was candid about his involvement with steroids. He does not regret using them, saying that it gave him a competitive edge. With million-dollar contract available to those who produce a prodigious amount of home runs, the temptation is great. Some players recently questioned about steroid have been less than forth coming about their feelings whether it is okay for players to be on the juice.

The integrity of the game is at stake. There are more muscle and tendon injuries in the game today, probably due to the effects of steroids. Baseball’s most prized record, the home run total for a season, has been broken twice in a four-year span after it stood for 37 years. The two players, Mark McGwire (now out of the game) and Barry Bonds, are both much bigger than when they entered the major leagues in the mid 1980s, some forty to fifty pounds heavier. Are steroids involved? What do you think?

It is not fair to suspect every beefy player as a steroid user. Nonetheless, it would be naïve to think that at least some of today’s biggest stars are not on the juice. It is a serious issue for many reasons. There are no solutions that will appease everyone, but one must be found before it becomes out of control.