The Lasting Hangover of Baseball’s Steroid Era
Today’s report by the New York Times revealed David Ortiz to be the latest in an ever-growing list of Major League Baseball players guilty of using illegal performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Ortiz’s name is now included on what has become an overhyped and mysterious list of names that tested positive back in 2003, before mandatory testing was put into place.
It was confirmed that Ortiz’s 2003 Boston Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez is also present on the list, confirming lingering suspicion surrounding him ever since Ramirez was suspended 50 games this season for using an estrogen-based drug that acts as a masking agent for PEDs.
The testing in 2003 was agreed to by the MLB Player’s Union in order to determine if mandatory testing (and thus punishments) would be incorporated the following year. Players were aware this testing would occur and were under the impression that the results would remain confidential. Years have passed, but some of the 100 names continue to leak to the media. Many have argued that each leak prevents the sport from healing and that all names on the list should be released once and for all, even despite the confidentiality given to the results.
In his piece “Cooperstown and the ‘Roids” (launches pdf file) by Bill James, James postulates a future whereby “we can reliably foresee a time in which everybody is going to be using steroids or their pharmaceutical descendants.” He ultimately argues that future generations, while accepting steroids as a cultural medication, will not worry about athletes that began using cocktail concoctions and instead they will be viewed as groundbreakers towards health medicine. Considering that there were once times where it was commonplace for baseball players to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol in the clubhouse before and during games, we cannot overlook just how well-refined the average athlete is in today’s world.
That being said, the ethical dilemma of cheating in the world of sports is its single greatest taboo. We cannot deny that the steroid era occurred, nor should we, the fans, or the Hall of Fame. Instead of finger pointing we must agree how to move forward. Instead of the media-driven inevitable leaking of names that will continue and in order to prevent the spread of rampant rumors of clean players, let us release the names once and for all so we can put faith in a “starting point” for the healing of the game.
It will be those players who we have come to hope were not involved that will restore faith in a game that should be a welcome distraction during tough economic times rather than a cause of further distrust and contempt.