Steroids Affects All Sports

By Tom Donelson
Updated: December 17, 2007


IOWA CITY, Ia. — The Mitchell report came out and a ton of new names cropped up; some famous, some not. What the Mitchell report has it has also shown, those sports that for years felt free of the steroids scourge may find themselves knee deep in its clutches.

Up until the 80’s, baseball players never considered weight lifting part of their training regimen. Weightlifting was considered taboo and even harmful for baseball player. In the late 80’s, baseball players discovered weightlifting and it was not far before the temptation of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs proved too much.

Jose Canseco combined power and speed, giving baseball a glimpse of the future. Smacking 40 homers and stealing 40 bases, Canseco led the Oakland A’s to three American pennants and one World Series crown.

Canseco and his sidekick, the young Mark McGwire became known as the “Bash Brothers” by knocking homers in bunches. What was not known at the time; Canseco rise to superstardom was aided by performance enhancing drugs. And Canseco aided others including McGwire on the joy of steroids.

The steroid era was upon baseball and 1998 was its peak. McGwire and Sammy Sosa engaged in their home run race and baseball attendance soared to an all time high. The bad taste left by the baseball strike of 1994 seemed erased.

Observing the home run race and noting the attention that both McGwire and Sosa received was Barry Bonds. Bonds had been the most vilify of the steroids era but he simply followed others.

He was not the trailblazer but he noted that others garnered attention that he felt he earned by being the best overall player in baseball. Being the best meant nothing when others were smacking home runs.

What baseball players found was that steroids and performance enhancing drugs not only increased strength but also allowed quick recovery from injuries. Baseball players often saw their strength faltering throughout the dog days of August, but in the steroid eras, superstars continued their super performance.

Instead of faltering in the August heat, they simply continued to set new records. Before the 90’s, 60 home runs was the standard for a single season and many great players failed at reaching that mark.

Only Roger Maris ever hit more than 60 homers in a season from 1927 until the McGwire-Sosa home run chase in 1998. By the end of the 90’s, 60 homers fell as a standard and 70 homers became the new standard.

Baseball executives looked the other way and allowed performance enhancing drugs determine the outcome of their sport and in the process threaten the credibility of the records that baseball often considered hollowed.

Nor did the MLB Players Association cared if many of their members cheated. See no evil became baseball philosophy. What happened in baseball may be repeating itself in boxing.

Boxing, like baseball, often considered weight lifting a taboo and not integral part of training. Boxing has yet to have the massive scandal of baseball but it is only a matter of time. James Toney and Fernando Vargas have already been caught and suspended and other fighters have tested positive but yet to suffer suspension.

Over the past decade, we have seen the emergence of the Super Heavyweights in which 250 pound leviathans became the new standard. Monsters reigned where mortal men once stood or it would appear that way.

It could be easily argued that the weight increase has come as a result of new training methods that have marked other sports but one can’t discount the emergence of performance enhancing drugs.

Where athletes were once 210 pounds, they are now 240. Muhammed Ali, at his peaked fought between 210 and 220 but most fighters his size today often fights between 240 to 260 pounds.

And there are plenty of easy state commissions where cheating can occur.

Baseball has shown what happens when its leaders ignore the warning signs and allow rampart drugs culture to flourish. There isn’t a sport not affected, and there will always be the incentive to cheat.

Those sports like football at least has made an effort to rid itself of allowing drug enhancing performances to dictate what happens on the field and on the record books.