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The Effects of Steroids on Baseball

The steroids that were introduced into the game of baseball come in many forms and can be taken orally, injected, or rubbed onto the skin. Anabolic steroids are widely known to be able to quicken the growth of muscles which in turn increases strength and speed without any additional effort (Egendorf 12). They allow a user to increase the amount of testosterone leading to increased muscle mass (Goldman). Although they have one very useful effect, there are also many other side effects that can be very dangerous to the user. Some of the more serious effects like heart attacks and strokes can occur through steroid abuse (Egendorf 12). Other side effects for male users include acne, baldness, breast development, shrinking testicles, and impotence (12). They may also cause something called “Roid Rage” that causes uncontrollable bursts of anger. Other psychological side effects include depression, addiction, aggression, impaired judgment, delusions, and paranoid jealousy (12). Despite these side effects many of the baseball’s players used them to get stronger in order to become better baseball players.

A major effect that steroids and performance enhancing drugs had on baseball occurred after steroids came into the game in the late 1980’s. A game once dominated by pitching was now seeing an increase in offensive production and numbers. Many baseball historians have said that Faye Vincent who was baseball’s commissioner from 1989 to 1992 began to look into steroids in his term. Many people in baseball did not want to tackle the issue of steroids when it was becoming popular in the early 90’s. When Bud Selig took over as commissioner in 1992, the issue of steroids and performance enhancing drugs took a backseat to issues like bargaining agreements between the league and player’s union with a player’s strike in 1994 imminent. The offensive number continued to increase during these times. There are many people that point to the increase in new smaller ballpark’s allowing the numbers to rise but others think otherwise (Goldman 27). From 1994 to 2004 (the Steroid Era), baseball saw a .5 increase in OPS (On-Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage) (Assael 74). The “Steroid Era” OPS increase was one major effect of performance enhancing drug use in baseball. Half of the thirty-six, fifty home run seasons occurred between 1995 and 2002 (Egendorf 65). After 1994, baseball saw three players break Roger Maris’s home run record of 61 that was once thought to be unreachable. Another revealing stat that steroids were running rampant in baseball was that teams saw a 31% increase in players on the disabled list from 266 in 1989 to 349 in 1999 (Assael 74). Also, the average stay on the disabled list went up 13% (Assael 74). The nature of those injuries changed to ailments showing oversized muscles being pulled off bones that could not support them (Assael 75).

One of the effects of performance enhancing drugs and the signs of steroids use was the first PED testing program in the minor leagues which was put together in 2000. In 2001 Bud Selig received news that 11% of minor league players used steroids (Bryant 236). This was a staggering number, but Bud Selig decided to not disclose the number to the public till 2004 (Bryant 237). After seeing the minor league number drop from 11% in 2000 to 4% in 2004, baseball instituted its first ever Major League Baseball steroid testing program (Roberts). The 2003 player testing had the players getting treatment for one positive test and on the fifth positive test only getting a year suspension (Bryant 272). If there were more than 5% of players that tested positive, a stricter steroid testing policy would be put in place. In 2004, Selig received the news that five to seven percent of players tested positive which meant a new testing policy for 2005 (Bryant 279). The new testing policy increased the frequency of the tests and no matter how many times a player was tested, he would remain subject to a random test (Egendorf 60). The new policy also introduced year round testing and broadened the list of banned substances (Bryant 60). Due to the new testing, Selig saw the numbers drop from five to seven percent in 2004 to one to two percent in 2005 (Bryant 61). The new testing policy was a success and made players think twice before using steroids or any other performance enhancing drug. The MLB continues to look forward to the day where steroids are not mentioned in the same breath as baseball.