Steroids: Past Failures and Future Threats

This was originally posted at my blog, but I wanted to give it the most exposure I could.  I encourge you all to visit my blog.  There is much, much more to this blog entry, so be sure to click "read more".


According to the New York Daily News, MLB KNEW about the rampant steroid use.

Ten years ago.

Special Agent Greg Stejskal, who oversees the Bureau's Ann Arbor, Mich., office, said he told baseball security chief Kevin Hallinan that Jose Canseco and many other players were using illegal anabolic steroids. Stejskal's warning was based on evidence gathered during a far-reaching steroid investigation he conducted in the '90s, but the agent says the lords of the game did not act on the information.

"I alerted Major League Baseball back in the time when we had the case, that Canseco was a heavy user and that they should be aware of it. . . . I spoke to the people in their security office. Hallinan was one of the people I spoke to," Stejskal told The News.

Hallinan "seemed interested," Stejskal said, but the agent says there was little baseball security could do about the problem. Major League Baseball and the union did not agree to a steroid testing program or disciplinary sanctions until 2002. A proposal during negotiations preceding the 1994 players' strike went nowhere. The FBI investigation focused on dealers rather than users.

Baseball officials denied yesterday that they were informed of steroid use, and angrily denounced Stejskal's charges.

"It did not happen," Hallinan said. "Not with this guy, not with anybody else."

Stejskal said the FBI's investigation into steroid use by bodybuilders and weightlifters was centered in Michigan but reached as far as Canada, Mexico, Florida and California and revealed widespread steroid use in baseball during the 1990s.

"There's little question the use of steroids was very widespread in baseball," Stejskal said. "And Major League Baseball in effect, they didn't sanction it, but they certainly looked the other way."

Had he been aware, Hallinan said, he would have pursued an investigation.

"If a guy comes to me and makes a statement like that, I'm going to squeeze him like a wet rag," Hallinan said. "The name doesn't ring a bell at all. Some guy makes a statement like that, give me specifics, I'm on it."

Stejskal said he first contacted baseball security in 1995 or 1996 to inform officials about steroid use by Canseco and other players. He also contacted MLB after Canseco claimed in 2002 that up to 80% of ballplayers use steroids.

So what we have here is an FBI agent saying he did something, and the guy who has an interest in that not being true claiming that it isn't true.  Until convinced otherwise, I'm going to believe the FBI guy.

You know, it's not really like this is a new thing.  People have been saying for years now that the owners and MLB has known about -- and permitted -- cheating and dangerous drug use in baseball since at least the mid-nineties, and possibly earlier.  How did this happen?  How can a sport which has always shunned the use of corked bats just LOOK THE OTHER WAY when so many players are illegally injecting themselves with drugs whose effects are greater than any corked bat could ever be?

Well, baseball has done a little bit in efforts to discourage steroid use: a weak policy that would suspend a player for ten games the first time he was caught using steroids.  Knowing baseball, that suspension would be reduced.  By the way, players are routinely suspended for 3-5 games these days for arguing with the umpires.  Does yelling at an umpire really represent a half or a third of the threat to baseball that steroids does?  This is simply not going to be an effective policy until a guy's caught three or four times.

If you tihnk that steroids hasn't had an effect on baseball, you're dead wrong.  Let's start with 1998, the year that Jose Canseco won the American League Most Valuable Player Award.  Canseco's already confessed to being juiced.  We actually remain steroid-free (I think) through the next several years, including three of four years from 1990-1993 when Barry Bonds won the award.  By the way, that was when he looked like this.  The only guys I can see that might have used steroids during this period are Kevin Mitchell and Mo Vaughn, but both could easily just be big guys anyway.

Then we hit 1996.  The two winners in 1996 were Juan Gonzalez and Ken Caminiti.  Anyone who's been paying attention to the steroids scandal probably just said "uh-oh".  That's because Caminiti admitted that he had used steroids (killing the rumors that he was the real-life version of Bruce Banner), and Gonzalez is one of the names named by Canseco in his book.

Then 1998.  Gonzalez wins the AL MVP again, and his National League counterpart is none other than Sammy Sosa.  I'm sure we all remember 1998 -- this was when our collective focii were on Mark McGuire as far as drugs were concerned.  Many of us, including me, took Sammy's claim that all he took were Flintstones vitamins at face value -- after all, why should we believe otherwise?  Sure, Sosa had been a 10-20 homer guy, then suddenly a 30-40 homer guy, then suddenly a 66 homer guy, but that kind of stuff happens in baseball.  Here is a picture of Sosa with Mark McGuire from 1998.  McGuire is clearly juiced.  Is Sosa?  Well, it's debatable.  There's no doubt in my mind that sometime prior to now, Sosa has used steroids.  Was it before or during 1998?  Only Sammy knows, I guess, but it's possible that he's actually hit more home runs in a season than anyone else who has played the game without the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.  Unfortunately, it's just as possible that 1998 was the second year in which both winners of the MVP were juiced.

Unfortunately, it's also very possible that the last time there wasn't a steroid user who won the MVP was 1997 (Griffey/Walker).  I say that because we have one more questionable guy who's named by Canseco (Rodriguez) in 1999, and then we have five straight years where known juicers win the MVP: Giambi in 2000, and Barry Bonds in every year since.

As you will recall, Bonds was a three-time MVP prior to 2001, but that was when he was in his late 20s.  By 2001, he was 36 years old, and looked like this  You know, juiced.  That's a word we should be hearing a lot in the next months.  Anyway, we have a 36 year old Barry Bonds coming off of a 49 home run season, a career best.  He'd been hitting somewhere near 40 homers like clockwork since he became a Giant.  Make no mistake: Barry Bonds had probably already secured a spot in the Hall of Fame before the 21st Century began.

Then suddenly, a 36 year old man hits more home runs than any person ever hit during one season.  For comparison, Sammy Sosa hit 66 homers at age 29, (and 63 at age 30, and 64 at age 32 -- if he wasn't juiced to start off with, he was at the end); Mark McGuire hit his 70 at age 34 (juiced) and 65 at age 35 (juiced).  Ruth hit his 60 at age 32 (59 at age 26) and Maris hit his 60 at age 26.  Hack Wilson, the NL single-season record holder for many years, hit 56 home runs when he was 30, and never came close again.  What we're seeing is that the oldest anyone has ever hit 60 home runs fairly (besides Bonds -- I'm not passing judgement on him for the moment) was 32 (Babe Ruth).  Yet Barry Bonds manages to hit not just 60, not just 70, but 72 home runs in 2001 at the declining age of 36 (for baseball players -- I don't mean to offend my middle-aged readers!), never having hit more than 49.  At the same time, his arms have doubled in diameter, and he's just bigger all around: legs, glutes, torso, head, everywhere except one place that doesn't have anything to do with baseball.

OK: now I'm passing judgment, and my verdict is guilty.

Bonds is in fact the poster child for steroids in baseball, despite what the egotistical Jose Canseco would like to think.  Bonds has ridden steroids and great hand-eye coordination to four straight MVP awards and one of the most sacred records in baseball.  And now he's taking aim at the other: the all-time home run mark, which as we all know is held by Hank Aaron, who played 23 seasons.

Yesterday, I joined CornCobDress of 1060 West in the call to save this last record from Barry Bonds.  If something isn't done, Bonds will get the record in two years -- if we're lucky.  If Bonds gets this record, steroids will sit as the king of baseball instead of its dirty secret.  This is baseball's last stand against steroids.  This is a problem that needs to be resolved now for baseball to maintain its dignity -- something that we all want to see.

Unfortunately, our leader isn't George Washington or Winston Churchill.  It's Bud Selig.  Selig was in charge when steroid use became rampant in baseball -- something he surely discovered during his time as either an owner or the Commissioner.  What was his response?  He did nothing.

This is the same guy who gave us the Tie of 2002.  This is the same guy who decided it was a good idea to put advertisements for Spiderman 2 on the bases this past June (an effort that sparked intense fan outrage that thankfully got the decision reversed).  Selig is also the first Commissioner of Baseball, I believe, who has also been an owner of a Major League team (and yes, the Brewers count -- they've won a pennant more recently than the Cubs have, remember!), which creates a conflict of interest when it comes to doing things that are for the good of the game instead of doing things that are for the good of the owners.  He knows that when guys are hitting homers, people are going to go to the ballpark.  He knows that when Bonds goes for #714 (he's only 11 home runs away from surpassing the most incredible home run hitter in history), the eyes of the nation will be glued to FOX or ESPN or whoever's carrying the game.  He knows that when Bonds is going after his 756th homer, even more of us will be watching.  What will we be watching, though: a record finally being toppled, or the integrity of baseball itself being knocked aside by Bonds' hefty bat?  I fear it's the latter.

Baseball therefore must stop Bonds before that blow.  But Bud Selig won't do it, not on his own.  It's up to us.  As a collective, we have the power to do it.  "Citizens' media", a new term for the blogosphere, has managed to get things done that needed to be done, from the successful call for accountability at CBS after they used fake documents to support a story to the ouster of Trent Lott as the Senate Majority Leader.  Even the baseball community has flexed its muscles during the internet age, with the outcry against the ads on the bases.  It is time to do so again.

One of two things needs to happen.  Either Bud Selig needs to be convinced by fans to protect Aaron's record from the juiced Barry Bonds, or he needs to be replaced by somebody who's willing to do so, and once that's done, whoever holds the office needs to get serious about steroids, instead of attempting to placate angry fans with laughable penalties.  I call on everybody in the Cubs Blog Army, and everybody in the baseball blogosphere to start this campaign NOW.  The sooner we rise up in opposition to tainting the most sacred of baseball's records, the sooner we'll get results.  We'll do what we need to: write about it on our blogs, send e-mails and/or letters to newspapers, sportswriters, and front offices that say we do not want baseball's record books to be tarnished any further.

When we're done with that, we won't be done with the campaign.  If Major League Baseball refuses to institute a serious steroid-testing policy, then we'll have to take our case straight to the front offices of baseball.  If we can convince just one team to have all of their players take steroids tests, and to suspend for the season anybody who fails, we'll have done our job, because the media will pick up our mantle and demand the same transparency from the other clubs.  We'l have done our job, because Major League Baseball will be forced to do what it apparently doesn't want to do already.

This is something that we can do.  We just have to do it.  We have to be vigilant, and we have to let people know how we feel.  The players can't be trusted to keep baseball clean.  The owners can't be trusted to keep baseball clean.  The Commissioner can't be trusted to keep baseball clean.  I'm afraid it's up to us.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bleed Cubbie Blue

You must be a member of Bleed Cubbie Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bleed Cubbie Blue. You should read them.

Join Bleed Cubbie Blue

You must be a member of Bleed Cubbie Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bleed Cubbie Blue. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.