Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

PEDs in Baseball

Posted on July 16, 2014 by Martin Banks


Performance enhancing drugs are a major problem in Major League Baseball, largely because of the league’s lack of testing until recent years. Following the 1994 player’s strike that led to the cancellation of the World Series, baseball’s popularity in the United States dwindled.

The only thing that brought the fans back was the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, which ended with both players breaking Roger Maris’ single season record. It was later revealed that both players were taking PEDs during this season, but MLB did not have any testing procedures in place. In recent years, baseball has taken some steps towards cleaning up the sport, which has included suspensions of some high profile players.

First Suspensions

After MLB introduced its new drug policy in January of 2004, it was only a matter of time before some players were suspended. The first suspension was handed out on April 3, 2005 when Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Alex Sanchez was given a 10-day ban. A total of 12 players were suspended in 2005, including all-stars Rafael Palmeiro, Ryan Franklin, and Matt Lawton. In 2005, the league and the player’s association agreed to make the penalties harsher for first time offenders, since each of these players was only suspended for 10 days.

Next Wave

Once stricter guidelines were implemented, players would receive a 50-game suspension for their first offense. This slowed the number of positive tests down considerably, as only three players received suspensions in 2006, with an additional 11 positive tests occurring between 2007 and 2011. The highest profile player to test positive during this time was Manny Ramirez, who received a 50-game suspension in 2009 and a 100-game suspension in 2011.

BALCO Scandal

Some players who have not tested positive for anything have been ostracized from the game. Barry Bonds is baseball’s all-time home-run leader and is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He was also indicted for his involvement with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, which produced steroids for a number of professional athletes. Although Bonds wished to continue his playing career, no team would sign him once he became a free agent after the 2007 season, due to his involvement in this high profile case. Bonds has not been inducted into the hall of fame, despite holding so many records, and is unlikely to be inducted anytime soon.

Biogenesis Scandal

A second major PED scandal broke in 2012, when numerous MLB players were suspended because of their links to Biogenesis, a supplier of human growth hormone. All-star players Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera and Nelson Cruz received 50-game suspensions, while National League MVP Ryan Braun was suspended for 65 games in total. The longest suspension, however, was handed out to Alex Rodriguez, who was banned for the entire 2014 season and playoffs. Keep in mind that these players are doing more than smoking harmless like Saffire e-Cigs, as these drugs do have long-term consequences.

PED Legacy

The use of performance enhancing drugs has created a long generation of stars in Major League baseball. Many of the records that have been set since 2005 remain in question, since the players who set them have either tested positive for PED use or are strongly suspected of taking these drugs. Record-setting players like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have barely received any votes since becoming eligible, because most of their stats remain in question. While Major League Baseball has taken some steps to cleaning up the sport, much work remains if they want the fans to forgive them for allowing this to happen in the first place.

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