Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa. These were the marquee stars of baseball in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, that were later discredited because of their use of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs). PEDs, commonly known as steroids, tarnished the records of many players that used them, and left a black eye on baseball as a whole.
PEDs were first acknowledged and “banned” by Major League Baseball in 1991, but a punishment was not set in place until 2001. Since random drug testing did not begin until 2001, steroids were still commonly used with rare consequence. Even once testing began, the first offense was only a 15 game suspension, which did not make a significant impact on a 162 game season. The topic of steroid use has been greatly debated; should the players that have been caught using or admitted their use of PEDs be honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame? I believe that using PEDs is cheating and records that were broken and made while using them should not be counted.
MLB players that used steroids fall into the “dirty hands” dilemma. The ethically problematic dilemma of taking steroids was done to become a superstar in professional baseball. Being a superstar in MLB means a top-level salary, which can be upwards of $30 million a year. The “steroid era” exploded the salaries for top paid players. Mike Schmidt, the top paid player in 1985, made $2.1 million. Alex Rodriguez, the top paid player in 2010, made $33. That is more than 15 times than what Mike Schmidt made 25 years prior.
Alex Rodriguez, commonly known as A-Rod, admitted to using PEDs in 2009. From 1998 to 2010, 11 of the highest salaries belonged to players that have admitted or been caught using PEDs (A-Rod had top salary 8 of those years) while another one, Kevin Brown, has been suspected of using PEDs. Players that used steroids became a hot commodity. Teams were attracted to them and non-users sought to be them. While PED users achieved unheard of statistics and shot to stardom, the average player was presented with a conflict: join them or become irrelevant. Thus, many players turned to steroids; not only had they fallen behind as players, but they put themselves at risk of losing money or even their jobs by avoiding the “dirty hands” dilemma. Beginning in 1990, the start of the “steroid era,” the average salary for players increased drastically which leads me to believe that steroid use caused the spike in pay. From 2001-2003 and then again in 2005, A-Rod led the league in home runs. His home runs in these years far surpassed his previous home runs totals. In 2013, he admitted to using PEDs in 2001 and 2003; two of his most dominating years in his career.
Glory is the other main reason for steroid use. The drive for recognition inspired many players to participate in the “dirty hands” predicament. Increased performance on the field meant a celebrity status off the field as well. Kids, myself included, looked up to the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez when they were growing up. Their jerseys would be the ones desired by fans, and their autographs were the most sought after. In addition to celebrity status off the field, the goal of winning a World Series championship was also at the forefront of every MLB players mind. Winning a World Series means having your legacy and name etched in history. While money motivates us on a surface level, why do players seek a competitive advantage? Recognition is what drives athletes to seek greatness. Some baseball players could not reach an elite level without artificial assistance so they chose PEDs to ascend into baseball history. Cheating your way to the top is unethical, unacceptable and the achievements of those who used PEDs should not be recognized by MLB.