Doping in baseball
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Banned substances in baseball has been an ongoing issue for Major League Baseball. Several players have come forward in recent years to suggest that drug use is rampant in baseball. David Wells stated that "25 to 40 percent of all Major Leaguers are juiced". Jose Canseco stated on 60 Minutes and in his tell-all book Juiced that as many as 80% of players used steroids, and that he credited steroid use for his entire career. Ken Caminiti revealed that he won the 1996 National League MVP award while on steroids. In February 2009, after reports emerged alleging that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003, a year in which he was American League MVP, he admitted to having used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) between 2001 and 2003. Mark McGwire, dogged by allegations of PED use for years, admitted in January 2010 that he had used steroids and human growth hormone off and on for over a decade, including in 1998 when he set the single-season home run record.
Players have attempted to gain chemical advantages in baseball since the earliest days of the sport. In 1889, for example, pitcher Pud Galvin became the first baseball player to be widely known for his use of performance-enhancing substances. Galvin was a user and vocal proponent of the Brown-Séquard Elixir, a testosterone supplement derived from the testicles of live animals such as dogs and guinea pigs.
The book The Baseball Hall of Shame's Warped Record Book, written by Bruce Nash, Bob Smith, Allan Zullo, and Lola Tipton, includes an account of Babe Ruth administering to himself an injection of an extract from sheep testicles. The experimental concoction allegedly proved ineffective, making Ruth ill and leading the Yankees to attribute his absence from the lineup to "a bellyache".
During World War II, both the Allied and Axis powers systematically provided amphetamines to their troops, in order to improve soldiers' endurance and mental focus. After the end of the war, many of those returning troops attended college, and when they did, they applied their knowledge of the benefits of amphetamine use first to college sports, and then to professional sports, including professional baseball.
According to writer Zev Chafets, Mickey Mantle's fade during his 1961 home run chase with Roger Maris was the indirect result of an attempt by Mantle to gain a substance-based edge. Chafets alleges that Mantle was hampered by an abscess created by a botched injection of a chemical cocktail administered by a "quack" doctor, Max Jacobsen. According to Chafets, the injection included steroids and amphetamines, among other substances.
In his autobiography I Had a Hammer, which was co-written with Lonnie Wheeler and published in 1992, outfielder Hank Aaron wrote that he accepted an amphetamine pill from an unnamed teammate and taken it before a game during the 1968 season, after becoming frustrated about his lack of offensive performance. Aaron described it as "a stupid thing to do", observing that the pill made him feel like he "was having a heart attack".
Former pitcher Tom House, drafted in 1967 and active in MLB from 1971-1978, has admitted to using "steroids they wouldn't give to horses" during his playing career. According to House, the use of performance-enhancing drugs was widespread at that time. He estimates that "six or seven" pitchers on every team were at least experimental users of steroids or human growth hormone, and says that after losses, players would frequently joke that they'd been "out-milligrammed" rather than beaten.
Third baseman Mike Schmidt, an active player from 1972-1989, admitted to Murray Chass in 2006 that he had used amphetamines "a couple [of] times". In his book Clearing the Bases, he said that amphetamines "were widely available in major-league clubhouses" during his playing career, and that "amphetamine use in baseball is both far more common and has been going on a lot longer than steroid abuse".
Relief pitcher Goose Gossage, active from 1972-1994, also admitted to using amphetamines during his playing career, in a 2013 interview with Ken Davidoff. In the same interview, Gossage voiced the opinion that amphetamines are not "a performance-enhancing drug", though he admitted that using them was illegal at the time.
During the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985, several players testified about the use of amphetamines in baseball. Shortstop Dale Berra admitted that he had used "greenies" while playing for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and the AAA Portland Beavers, and stated that while in Pittsburgh between 1979 and 1984 he had been supplied with the drugs by teammates Bill Madlock and Willie Stargell. Outfielder John Milner testified that while he was playing for the New York Mets, he had seen in the locker of teammate Willie Mays a powerful liquid amphetamine he called the "red juice".
Steroids finally made it to baseball’s banned substance list in 1991, however testing for major league players did not begin until the 2003 season. While testing for steroids began, the usage did not stop. From 1991 to 2003 the steroid era ran rampant through the MLB and tarnished many great names and many great records.
In 2005, Jose Canseco released a tell-all book, Juiced, about his experience with steroids in his career. In the book, Canseco named several other players, including Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez, as steroid users. The book caused great controversy, and most of these players have claimed Canseco's implications to be false, though McGwire and Giambi have since admitted to using PEDs, and Palmeiro has tested positive.
Canseco released another book, Vindicated, about his frustrations in the aftermath of the publishing of Juiced. In it, he discusses his belief that Alex Rodriguez also used steroids. The claim was eventually proven true with Rodriguez's admission in 2009, just after his name was leaked as being on the list of 103 players who tested positive for banned substances in Major League Baseball. As of July 2013, Alex Rodriguez was again under investigation for using banned substances provided by Biogenesis of America. He was ultimately suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season.
Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids throughout his professional baseball career. The admission of steroid use caused many cases of questioning of whether or not his long list of accomplishments should be rebutted. His most famous accomplishment undoubtedly took place in the 1998 season when he broke the single season home run record previously held by Roger Maris.
It was after this accomplishment that McGwire and a wide array of MLB players came under scrutiny for use of steroids. A news reporter stumbled upon an open container of androstenedione in McGwire's locker in August of the '98 season. At the time androstenedione was not on the banned substance list for Major League Baseball, but was viewed as a precursor to anabolic steroids and was already banned by the International Olympic Committee, the National Football League, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
In 2005, after the release of Juiced, Mark McGwire was among 11 Major League Baseball players that were publicly addressed concerning their use of steroids. During the accusations McGwire was noted for avoiding direct questions from Congress, instead continually saying "I'm not here to talk about the past." Although he never admitted to steroid use, the public certainly questioned whether or not he was a user because of his unwillingness to answer direct questions. McGwire was never officially identified as a steroid user, however his public image suffered after he failed to respond to these accusations.
The truth did eventually come out. Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids off and on throughout his MLB career on January 11, 2010. He claimed to only have used steroids for health reasons and for quick recovery, never for strength or size gains. These claims were publicly disputed by McGwire's steroid supplier, who stated that he did, in fact, use steroids to gain a competitive edge.
The nutrition center BALCO was accused of distributing steroids to many star players, most notably Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. Baseball has attempted to toughen its drug policy, beginning a plan of random tests to players. Players such as Ryan Franklin and others were handed suspensions as short as ten days. However, a Congressional panel continued to argue that the penalties were not tough enough, and took action.
Many top players, including Canseco, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling were summoned on March 17, 2005 to testify in front of Congress (Schilling was summoned because of his outspoken opposition to the use of PEDs). During the session, Canseco admitted his steroid use which he claims was perfectly acceptable during the 1980s and early 90's. Palmeiro denied all steroid use during his career, while McGwire refused to discuss the issue, contending that he would be considered guilty no matter what he said. His repeated statement "I'm not here to talk about the past," became the most highlighted moment of the proceedings.
Palmeiro, who was listed in Canseco's book as a user along with McGwire, denied Canseco's claims and told Congress that those claims were absolutely erroneous. The committee had stated that baseball had failed to confront the problems of performance-enhancing drugs. The committee was disturbed by the accepted use of steroids by athletes because it created a bad persona of players who in many cases are role models to many of the aspiring youth. During the testimonies the players called to Congress offered their condolences for youthful athletes who had committed suicide after using performance-enhancing drugs.
Five months after the Congressional hearing, information came out indicating Palmeiro had already tested positive for steroids and knew it when he spoke before Congress. He appealed but the test results and ensuing suspension were upheld. Mark McGwire, whose credentials could arguably satisfy expectations for first ballot Hall of Fame election, was denied election in his first year, with many voters citing McGwire's perceived refusal to speak at the Congressional Investigation.
As a result of pressure from Congress, baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association started applying stricter regulations and applied a zero tolerance policy in correspondence to performance-enhancing drugs. On August 1, 2005, Palmeiro tested positive for performing enhancing substances and was suspended ten days. Once thought to be a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of only four players to have both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, Palmeiro's legacy has now been called into question. Palmeiro's career would quickly plummet as he would be granted free agency following the 2005 season. He hasn't played since.
The Bonds controversy continues, especially now that he has surpassed the All-Time Home Run record with 762 career home runs; the media continues to pressure Bonds with questions over the issue. In 2006, the book Game of Shadows was published offering researched claims that Bonds' trainer was providing illegal performance enhancers to Bonds and other athletes. Bonds had admitted that he did use a clear substance and lotion given to him by his trainer but had no idea that they were any sort of performance enhancers. Bonds claimed that to his knowledge, the substances given to him were legal to treat his arthritis.
2006 Baseball steroids investigation
On March 29, 2006, ESPN learned that former Senator, Boston Red Sox board member, and Disney chairman George J. Mitchell would head an investigation into past steroid use by Major League Baseball players, including San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds. Mitchell was appointed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig in the wake of controversy over the book Game of Shadows, which chronicles alleged extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs, including several different types of steroids and human growth hormones Bonds allegedly had taken. Selig did not refer to Bonds by name in announcing the investigation, and many past and present players will be investigated. Mitchell took on a role similar to that of John Dowd, who investigated Pete Rose's alleged gambling in the late 1980s. However, Selig acknowledged that the book, by way of calling attention to the issue, was in part responsible for the league's decision to commission an independent investigation. A report of the investigation released on December 13, 2007 named more than 80 former and current baseball players.
On June 6, 2006, Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jason Grimsley's home was searched by federal agents. He later admitted to using human growth hormone, steroids, and amphetamines. According to court documents, Grimsley failed a baseball drug test in 2003 and allegedly named other current and former players who also used drugs. On June 7, 2006 he was released by the Diamondbacks, reportedly at his own request.
MLB steroid policy
Over most of the course of Major League Baseball history, steroid testing was never a major issue. In 1991, Commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all teams stating that steroid use was against the rules, though there was no official rule change. However, after the BALCO steroid scandal, which involved allegations that top baseball players had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball finally decided to both ban steroids and issue penalties to steroid users. The current policy, which was accepted by Major League Baseball players and owners, was issued at the start of the 2005 season and went as follows:
A first positive test resulted in a suspension of 10 games, a second positive test resulted in a suspension of 30 games, the third positive test resulted in a suspension of 60 games, the fourth positive test resulted in a suspension of one full year, and a fifth positive test resulted in a penalty at the commissioner’s discretion. Players were tested at least once per year, with the chance that several players could be tested many did not succeed.
This program replaced the previous steroid testing program under which, for example, no player was even suspended in 2004. Under the old policy, which was established in 2002, a first-time offense would only result in treatment for the player, and the player would not be named.
In November 2005, MLB owners and players approved even tougher penalties for positive tests than the ones in place during the 2005 season. Under the new rules, a first positive test would result in a 50-game suspension, a second positive test would result in a 100-game suspension, and a third positive test would result in a lifetime suspension from MLB.
On March 28, 2014 the players and owners announced that the penalties for a positive test would be increased to an 80-game suspension for a first time offense. Then escalate to an 162-game suspension for the second offense, and a lifetime ban from the sport for the third. Players who are suspended for the season, will not be allowed to participate in the post season. These suspensions do not allow the player to be paid while suspended. This is the strictest policy against doping that the MLB has had.
These new penalties are much harsher than the previous ones. The new steroid policy finally brings MLB closer in line with international rules.
On March 30, 2006, Bud Selig launched an investigation on the alleged steroid use by players such as Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield as the weight of books like Game of Shadows emerged. The inquiry into steroids' use in baseball is expected to go back no further than 2002, when the MLB started testing players for performance-enhancing drugs.
Barry Bonds's trial
Steven Hoskins, on Wednesday, March 23, 2010, testified against Barry Bonds as a government witness in the perjury and obstruction of justice case against the former baseball star. Hoskins described Barry Bonds's use of anabolic steroids, and how his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, would discuss taking the steroids in an open manner. Even though Hoskins never witnessed Barry Bonds actually taking the drugs, he witnessed Anderson handling the needle, and Barry Bonds going in and out of the bedroom, and Barry Bonds complaining about the shots leaving his butt sore. Barry Bonds would use his girlfriends to get the steroids, and would pay them a few thousand dollars at a time. Heisler analyzes the different sports and their testings. Like most other sports, baseball has a testing policy. The policy states that a player cannot be tested without reason. Meaning, that there must be a very specific reason why a player should be tested.
On January 10, 2013, MLB and the players union reached an agreement to add random, in-season human growth hormone testing and a new test to reveal the use of testosterone. Testing began the 2013 season.
Biogenesis anti-aging clinic
In 2013, at least twenty MLB players (and athletes in other sports) were accused of taking HGH. Ultimately 14 were suspended, most famously Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers (suspended for final 65 games of 2013 season), Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees (suspended for 211 games), and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers (50 games). The clinic was run by Anthony “Tony” Bosch in Florida. The notebooks he kept made it clear that he supplied human growth hormones, anabolic steroids, and performance-enhancing drug lozenges to his clients, which not only included professional athletes but teenagers as well. It is worth noting that Bosch is not a doctor and has a fake medical degree.
- Doping in sport
- Doping in the United States
- Major League Baseball drug policy
- List of Major League Baseball players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs
- Barry Bonds
- Don Catlin
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