More on steroids

Posted By on February 22, 2009 9:42 pm

I know, I know. No more steroids, please! I don’t like writing about steroids, but I felt compelled to point out an article that I discovered via Peter Gammons via John Perricone of Only Baseball Matters. It was written in Sports Illustrated almost 40 years ago and everyone should read it. It vividly described the use of performance enhancing drugs in all sports a generation ago.

I won’t get into all of it here, but the point is that athletes have been pushing the envelope since the beginning of time. There is nothing new about steroids. And the guys in the ’50s and ’60s were certainly also doing whatever they could to get an edge (an exerpt in the SI article describes Bob Gibson popping pills to allow him to pitch). They may have been doing even more back then when there were fewer teams and competition for jobs was more fierce.

I feel pretty confident that if you took 700 major leaguers out of 1952 and dropped them into 2002, the same percentage of them would have used steroids. Why wouldn’t they? Were they somehow more pure back then? They were still just a bunch of guys trying to get rich by hitting a baseball better than anyone else. Certainly everyone by now is familiar with Mike Schmidt’s quote: ”Let me go out on a limb and say that if I had played during that era I would have taken steroids… We all have these things we deal with in life, and I’m surely not going to sit here and say to you guys, ‘I wouldn’t have done that.’”

Athletes do what they have to do to get ahead. That’s in their DNA.

That’s why I have trouble getting all indignant when I hear that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or Alex Rodriguez cheated. I just can’t get on board with the talk-show hosts and columnists who want to make a big stink or decry the state of sports or talk about how it was “in the good old days.”

Of course it’s wrong to use steroids. Of course it’s stupid.

But if a guy wants to risk his own health in an effort to make himself more money and entertain me, that’s his problem.

Not mine.


52 Responses to “More on steroids”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Interesting article here on Hank Aaron being a possible juicer as well:

    Agreed athletes doing anything to gain an edge is not a new fad, nor is confined to athletics that people are willing to do anything to win. But if it’s against the rules, and you get caught before you get into the hall… sorry bud. You took the risk, you lost.

    I do believe, however, that voting for known steroid user should be taken on a case by case basis. Bonds was a hall of famer when he started juicing, McGwire was not. Clemens was a borderline guy… That’s still what I think of them today, regardless of their career stats. A-Rod is prob out now that it’s come out he has been juicing his entire career…

    I’ll bet if Selig decreed that a positive steroid test (maybe two?) will make you ineligible for the Hall that juice would drastically decrease in the game. It’s debatable that it’s already in place, but an official rule would go a long way.

  2. Brad says:

    I couldn’t disagree with you more, Jeff. I think there needs to be a push for more integrity and accuracy in sports. Steroid use causes distrust in the statistics of the game.

    And this should have nothing to do with how the sport use to be conducted, it has to do with the way it ought to be conducted.

  3. B says:

    Many points to be made here. First of all, Jeff, John at OBM is a Giants blogger so you should be reading his blog to begin with instead of having to find it through Gammons. He writes some great stuff. Second, steroids have been in baseball since at least the 70′s (Tom House, who happened to catch home run 715 from Hank Aaron, admitted to steroid use in the 70′s to the Chronicle a while back, and said many others were using it back then).

    Third, according to Brad, steroids cause “distrust in the statistics in the game”. Wake up Brad. Before 1947, statistics in baseball were affected by the fact that they excluded people from the game based on race/ethnicity. Since the 50′s and 60′s, players have been using a variety of legal and illegal drugs to change their performance. The bats have changed, the balls have changed, the parks have changed, the mound has changed…the statistics are going to change with it. The Braves moved the fences for their park in when Aaron was approaching Ruth’s record, and back out once he broke it. All of these have an effect on the statistics. The real issue was your trust was misplaced. It’s also ridiculous that you take issue with it only because records were broken. So it’s ok that NFL players use as long as they don’t break the home run record, it’s ok if a player who isn’t a HoF’er uses it as long as he isn’t breaking a record, that players long before Jose Canseco used it but didn’t break any records? If you read the SI article Jeff linked to in this post, you will see how outrageous it is that it’s an issue NOW. That article was written 40 years ago, but if it came out tomorrow it would seem like it was written for the present (basketball gambling issues and all), only the names have changed.

    Next issue: Clemens, like Bonds, was a bonafide HoF’er long before he was ever accused of using steroids. He won 3 Cy Youngs by 1991, 5 by 1998. 3 would rank him 5th all-time, 5 would rank him tied for first with new Giant, RJ.

  4. Pat says:

    Right on, Fletch. This indignant steroid witchhunt by the media is so over the top. Bonds is treated like the devil and the media made it very difficult for me, a Giants fan, to enjoy his greatness during the last few years of his career. I always found it ironic that as Bonds was vilified by the media, where ever the Giants came to play the stands were full because people wanted to watch him play. What’s so bad about people watching baseball?

  5. Kyle says:

    I totally agree with your first point…

    (caps mine)

  6. stevex says:

    My issue is with the people who want to take away all the HRs that A-Rod, Bonds, and all the others hit. In my opinion, if a juiced-up hitter is facing a juiced-up pitcher, the playing field is level at that point. If we’re going to go after A-Rod’s numbers from ’01 to ’03, let’s see the rest of those 104 names to see if the pitchers that were serving them up were clean.

  7. Lowell Cohn says:

    I don’t think it’s as simple as saying anything goes. if major leaguers use illegal drugs that forces minor leaguers to do it and college players to do it. eventually you couldn’t have a major league career without risking your health. doesn’t seem fair.

  8. B says:

    Lowell I think you overestimate the effects of using drugs. If you’re interested in further reads here you go:

    I woke up this morning believing that the PED-testing in MLB is a good step in the right direction because of the health issues associated with PED’s (though the outrage over what happened pre-testing is a joke). After reading some of these articles, I’m beginning to lean towards an anything goes policy. If nothing else, they present a lot of facts that should at least make you think long and hard about the issue (and rethink the garbage the media feeds us).

  9. JAB says:

    What I find tragic, is that writers, and mostly writers that can’t get enough of baseball seem to always try to draw equality from pill popping to anabolic injections done to completely change who that person is— it is the ultimate minimization of the crime. Persoanlly, it is just one more reason I find the sport laughable and incomplete.

    Integrity in baseball??!!!! Oh gawd, not only does it not have it, but those that write about it seem to be in need of some as well.

    These guys, are incapable of just being gracious to do well in life- everything is justifiable and OK-quitt giving them your blessing, it is illegal-it is also harmful, it killed athletes young and old, taking greenies just doesn’t equate-stop trying to make things equal- it is appalling.

  10. Brad says:

    In response to “B”:

    I never said that I am only taking issue with this because records are broken. In fact, I never even put any focus on records or the Hall of Fame, which you seemed to jump right into. The statistical side of baseball involves much more than home runs and whether or not someone makes Hall of Fame status. I’m talking about all the little mathematical stuff that is added to a player’s resume as their career develops (batting averages, pitching statistics, etc…there are a lot of them).

    Now, are these things altered by changes in the game itself? Absolutely. Like you said, balls, bats, parks mounds, rules, etc. have all been changed as the game has evolved. But this offers no reasonable premise to support illegal drug use in sports. It’s like saying: A (changes in game) affects B (statistics), therefore C (drug use) should be allowed as well. But A and C have no similarity in nature, because A is an effect from outward forces on the player…things the player cannot change, while C is something the player has a choice in (whether or not to use drugs).

    I understand your utilitarian view, I just disagree with it. The game needs structure, and it needs integrity. I’d rather see someone play the game phenomenally by way of their own natural ability than to see someone who uses enhancing drugs to get an “edge” on their opponent. That, to me, is unimpressive. I watch sports for the strategy, the excitement, and the chance to see athletes do amazing things that seem to defy the limits of the average human being…not watch a science experiment. That offers little hope to those who love the nature of sport.

    Again, the actions of the past don’t justify the present and future. There is much wrong with the sport of baseball in these times. Unfortunately, illegal drug abuse is just one issue.

  11. giantsrainman says:


    How can you not equate greenies to steroids? They are both now against baseball’s rules with both testing and punishment in place. They are both illegal to use without a perscription. They both enhance performance. In addition, there is scientific evidence that greenies are actually more dangerous to one’s health then steroids. You do know don’t you that greenies have killed players in not just baseball but football, basketball, and many other sports as well?

  12. B says:


    I have to disagree with you that there is much wrong with baseball these days. When I go to the ballpark, I see the a pitcher hurl a ball towards a catcher, a batter swing a piece of wood at it – the game is as pure as it’s always been. I enjoy watching Timmy pitch as much as I enjoyed watching Barry hit. I’m sorry you don’t find as much joy in it as you maybe once did.

    As for the mixture of science into sports, I think it’s unrealistic to call anything that’s happened in the last 50+ years truly “natural”. Players have been taking greenies, steroids, pain killers, muscle relaxers, other stimulants, vitamins, supplements, and whatever else for so long it’s impossible not to see the effect science has had on the game. I understand if you want to draw the line at “illegal science”, but I would argue that the reason steroids are illegal is more about Washington politics and less about scientific/health reasons. I posted some links farther up if you’re interested in reading why I think that. If you have any good articles that make counterpoints I am very open to reading them. The point is using steroids should be no different than Curt Schilling getting a cortizone shot in his ankle to pitch – and in the end it doesn’t take away from the drama and the greatness of baseball. Sure, the drugs helped him get out on the field, but what we’ll remember is his performance, the same way we’ll (at least Giants fans will) remember Bond’s performances. It’s still about great players doing great things, and even science can’t change that.

  13. Shooter Beck says:

    How are steroids/PEDs different than such things as:

    - cortisone shots
    - Schilling’s procedure during the World Series a few years back
    - pain-numbing injections
    - taking an IV
    - creatine
    - a model/actor/actress getting plastic surgery

    Each of the above are examples of performance-enhancing measures that an individual can/did take in order to augment his or her performance. The only distinction that separate this list from an athlete taking steroids is that steroids are not allowed by law, a fact that a good number of people who argue over this subject choose to ignore. Ignoring the fact that they are illegal and looking at it from a moralist standpoint, I can’t see how taking a steroid is any different from any of the things I listed. They are all unnatural performance-enhancing measures, so demonizing steroids and those who injest them while ignoring (and in some cases, finding heroism in) the other options to improve upon one’s performance doesn’t make any logical sense to me.

  14. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Just to clarify, I don’t want to be in the “kick ‘em out of the game and wipe away all their numbers” crowd, and I don’t want to be in the “anything goes” crowd either. I am in between.

    I believe it is wrong to use steroids or any other illegal performance enhancing drug (cortisone shots administered by doctors are not illegal). I believe that MLB (and all sports, hello NFL) should use the best available testing and have appropriate penalties for those individuals who test positive. (A 50-game ban for a first offense seems about right, but I woudn’t object to making the suspension up to one year.)

    However, I don’t think that you should demonize the players who are caught as if they are murderers or child-molestors. I don’t think you should throw out all of their accomplishments as if they had not existed. Most of all, I don’t think “the game” has been damaged beyond repair by what they’ve done.

    Players (hitters and pitchers) used steroids because everyone else did and no one was really stopping them. They put themselves at risk in an effort to excel. There are far worse crimes. I think alcohol presents a much greater threat to society than steroids. I worry more that my son will be killed by a drunk driver than steroids.

    So let’s do all we can stop steroid use in the present and future, but let’s not waste any more time (or taxpayer dollars) digging into what has been done.

  15. B says:

    Jeff, don’t worry, you came across that way to begin with. A couple of days I would have been in complete agreement with you (while emphasizing how ridiculous it is to get up in arms about players using steroids before MLB started testing for it, the same people that make a big deal about it sat around and did nothing while it happened…) However, after reading the articles I linked further above I’ve changed my stance.

    It seems that steroids, if used properly under a doctors supervision, would have many benefits with limited negative health effects to a professional athlete. Thus, it is very comparable to a cortisone shot, unfortunately, a bunch of grandstanding politicians made some laws that have no scientific basing. I think you should read the articles – even if your opinion stays the same they will certainly give you some worthwhile material to think about. It seems if nothing else, athletes should be able to get a prescription for (anabolic) steroids for specific injuries. I think everyone can agree we’d like to see players on the DL less.

  16. JAB says:

    LOL, what a load of crap- it is OK as long as it is supervised- kids die, wrestlers die and kill their family, lyle alzado is dead at 42- and one says greenies is a equal too,anabolic roids, that grossly alter your body,affect dramatic mood swings, cause acne to appear all over a inflated joint taxed readyu to explode body- and another reads a few pro stances and believes everthing goes, is it any wonder that you people adore a game filled with frauds and fakes, and the very same people you adore would spit in your face and laugh at the writers.


  17. B says:


    Please refrain from posting untrue statements in the future. Before you speak up with such a strong opinion, you could try doing some actual research to find actual facts. Nobody has ever said it’s ok for kids to do steroids – based on the articles I read and posted, though they generally advocate supervised steroid use to some degree, it is a 100% consensus that people who aren’t fully mature (aka kids) should not use steroids. Second, just because a wrestler has mental issues does not mean steroids had anything to do with his killing himself and his family (I assume you mean Chris Benoit). Try reading the wikipedia article on his death. Lyle Alzado is not a doctor, and even though he thought his steroid use contributed to his brain tumor, actual doctors who know what they’re talking about have ruled this out as impossible. As for greenies, there have been multiple deaths directly linked to their usage, so I don’t see how you downplay that? Tommy Simpson is an example. Basically, if you want to continue to be so strongly opinionated despite the fact that you have no idea what you’re talking about and are unwilling to read actual facts, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re more open minded than that, check out the 4 articles I posted in a comment farther up. Otherwise, you’re making the world a worse place and I have to ask, can’t you please stop?

  18. Brad Jensen says:

    I really have never understood why the fans and media get up in arms. The really issue that I have always had is with MLB management and the player’s union. Players who are / were clean should be pissed off for having to compete on uneven footing. Players that didn’t want to risk their health and were on the cusp of making the show or not should be incredibly pissed because they probably missed out on some substantial income or had to make a devil’s bargain. In these cases the player’s union really did a disservice to their rank and file membership. You can argue that steroid related performance led to more fans and thus larger contracts but most unions are about protecting the little guy. In the case of steroids the super rich got richer, the rich got richer, and the lower and middle classes paid the price.

    I remember sometime I believe in 1988 when Ozzie Canseco got called up in September and I was at a game. He was doing the pregame stretching and Jose came out to chat with him. You don’t expect twins to look exactly alike but the contrast between the two of them was like a father and his young teenage son. They look alike, are roughly the same height, but the musculature is way different. I was at the game with my sister and I remember her saying “wow Jose Canseco is on steroids.” I’ve known for years that McGwire was juiced, and Giambi, and Tejada, even a guy like Vellarde (Adam Piatt was a revelation). Anyone with any common sense could see it on their teams. Was I outraged? No. Some of the names that came out surprised me, more because of the lack of physical tells than anything else and to show just how prevalent it was within the game.

    The other thing that gets me with fans and the media is how prevalent it is in other sports, football especially. I actually do have some issue with football because I don’t think the game is as entertaining as it was in the 80′s. I liked seeing a difference between the skill positions and the grunts. Now linebackers look like lineman and run like receivers, and running backs are the size of linebackers and run faster than ever before. That doesn’t mean I am outraged of course. These guys even if they aren’t juiced take their lives at risk playing a violent game and usually live shorter lives as a result. Playing that extra season or two can make the difference in being able to secure the long-term stability of their family and it’s hard to fault a guy for that, even if the way they go about it is dangerous.

    Let’s not even talk about the Olympics.

  19. Jeff Fletcher says:

    Brad, my theory for why no one cares about steroids in football is that the game hasn’t changed as much. Offensive linemen and defensive linemen both use steroids, so they cancel each other out. If only offensive linemen used steroids and suddenly games were 65-54 with running backs gaining 300 yards, people would be a little more upset about steroids ruining the game. The perception with baseball, which is not entirely accurate, is that steroids have cheapened the hitters accomplishments and now it’s easy for guys to hit a whole bunch of home runs and break the records of the poor, innocent players of the “good ol’ days.” I think steroids are only one of the factors that has led more offense and more home runs.

  20. JAB says:

    Brad- please stop boring me with your eltist style tripe about reading your garbage filled posts from pro stance steriod dopers….please understand, it is laughable OK? no matter how much you want me to desperately believe in your hysterics of supervised anabbolic doping cheaters, it ain’t happening kid. The ansers lay in the huge numbers and deaths of kid athletes and these sad apes that play baseball. So go play doctor elsewhere, your really boring pal.

    Jeffs post above me says it all- it is why people like you idolize the numbers and make illlogical leaps trying oh so hard to justify the illegal and ill gotten anabolic steriods. Everything is explained away as essentially OK, instead of indicting the game and it’s fakeness from the top to the bottom. people fight long and hard to justfy it, why? well because they idolize a game that’s numbers use to mean something, now you can’t believe a word from any of them, or the writers that cover them.

    It is what it is.

  21. giantsrainman says:


    Clearly you didn’t understand Jeff’s post that you refererenced. Here is a clue “poor, innocent players of the good ol’ days” is sarcasm. Such players do not actually exist. These so called “innocent players” you invest so much hero worshiping into are only “innocent” in the false memories or you and so many others that are just too blinded by your “hero worshiping” to see the truth.

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