Saturday, June 23, 2007

The following links will guide you to specific sections of the page (they will not drag you to another page -- just down a bit). Any claims made will be followed by a link where you can verify that the information provided is accurate.


What is a performance-enhancer?

The term "performance-enhancing" is vague, perhaps intentionally so. Anything can be performance-enhancing. The Tylenol athletes take to relieve a headache. The prayers they send to God before, during, and after the games (even though His existence is unlikely, it could act like a placebo and give them a false sense of security). The Cortizone shots players get before the game to play through pain. Anything can be performance-enhancing, which makes it all the more questionable why baseball has taken its cue from the moral majority in making steroids out to be an evil substance.

Not surprisingly, the groups most persistent in keeping drugs like steroids and marijuana illegal are the pharmaceutical companies, who have the politicians (both Republican and Democrat) in their back pocket. Thusly, the politicians prop up drugs as a scourge, and keep it illegal while the pharmaceutical companies develop, market, and stuff the shelves full of legal drugs that are much more harmful. Marijuana and steroids have been used to heal a variety of ailments (marijuana has no negative side effects and has never been the source of a fatality, while steroids have a few, such as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease), so how would pharmaceutical companies make their money selling drugs that specifically treat just one condition when there are substances out there that can cure scores of them? Business-wise, it's a smart move for the pharmaceutical companies to eliminate their competition -- steroids , amphetamines, and marijuana.

What kind of steroids do athletes take and why?

Athletes use anabolic steroids, which are essentially testosterone supplements. They are risky because anabolic steroids can increase blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as the risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease.

They are willing to risk their health later in life for some short-term success (which is not even guaranteed). The steroids allow the athletes to put on muscle mass, as well as decrease the time it takes to recover from physical strain, such as weight lifting, running, or throwing a baseball.

The effect steroids have is entirely dependent upon the user. Adherence to a strict workout regimen and a stringent diet are key for the steroids to work in the intended way -- one cannot just sit on the couch and use steroids and expect to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Oddly enough, there are plenty of legal drugs that can help just as steroids do (help to increase muscle mass, recover from physical strain, etc.), but they are not illegal. And we know that those in charge of the legality of substances don't have anyone's best interest at heart, or else cigarettes and alcohol (and myriad other items) would also be outlawed.

There is no evidence that taking steroids increases one's ability to hit homeruns:

"Based on the data from players that have hit 500 or more career home runs without the assistance of steroids, it is apparent that most major league players peak in their home run production between their sixth and tenth seasons. Players who use (or are accused of using) steroids have a peak much later in their career around their 11th through 17th seasons. Even though they are able to increase the productivity later in their careers there is no statistical evidence that steroid users are able to sustain this level of productivity over an extended period of time."

In fact, the non-steroid users had a slightly higher home run average than the suspected users. The study found that admitted and presumed steroid users averaged 41.36 homers during their best five years while non-users averaged 43.38 over their best five seasons. [Link]

How long have performance-enhancing drugs been around?

Anabolic steroids came about in the 1930's; amphetamines have been around since the 1880's.

According to former pitcher Tom House, steroids have been around baseball since the 1960's:

Former major league pitcher Tom House used steroids during his career and said performance-enhancing drugs were widespread in baseball in the 1960s and 1970s, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

House, perhaps best known for catching Hank Aaron's 715th home run ball in 1974 in the Atlanta Braves' bullpen, said he and several teammates used amphetamines, human growth hormone and "whatever steroid" they could find in order to keep up with the competition.


House, 58, estimated that six or seven pitchers per team were at least experimenting with steroids or human growth hormone. He said players talked about losing to opponents using more effective drugs.

"We didn't get beat, we got out-milligrammed," he said. "And when you found out what they were taking, you started taking them." [Link]

Have steroids and amphetamines always been illegal both in baseball and in U.S. law?

No, they have not. The Steroid Control Act of 2004 took effect on January 20, 2005, which made possession of anabolic steroids without a prescription a federal crime [Link]. Both anabolic steriods and amphetamines are a Schedule III drug, which "are only available by prescription, and distribution is carefully controlled and monitored by the DEA."

Major League Baseball only recently began to test for amphetamines and steroids. The timeline:


An Amphetamine, known otherwise as "greenies," "speed," or "red juice" (in Willie Mays' era), is a stimulant used to treat some abnormalities, such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Athletes take amphetamines to help them get through parts of the schedule where they find themselves out of gas or not able to give 100%.

Barry Bonds, on the only drug test he's ever failed, tested positive for amphetamines [Link]. "Speed" was prevalent in baseball in the mid-1900's until drug testing was recently implemented. Here's what some players have said about the use of the drug in baseball [Link]:

Mike Schmidt is one of several former baseball players who have admitted to using amphetamines [Link].

"There were a few times in my career when I felt I needed help to get in there. I'm a victim; I admit to it. I'm not incriminating myself or players I played with to say we were on amphetamines our entire careers. I just wanted to see what they would do. It was a lack of willpower. You had an impressionable young kid, and someone says, 'Man you want to feel good?' If I had to do it over, I probably wouldn't do it. You can't put a 56-year-old head on a 28-year-old kid." [Link]

Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

Since the MLB Player's Union rightfully fights against mandatory blood tests (an invasion of privacy and against the Fourth Amendment), there is no test that can accurately and definitively detect one's use of HGH. Due to this fact, HGH may now be the substance of choice among athletes looking to get bigger and stronger, especially since it has few side effects if taken properly (the only one to be cautious about is acromegaly).


Did Bonds use steroids?

Quick answer: We don't know. Everyone has an opinion on it, and most people agree that he did use steroids. However, he has never failed a drug test for steroids, and he has never admitted to using them -- not even in his grand jury testimony:

Barry Bonds told a federal grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream supplied by the Burlingame laboratory now enmeshed in a sports doping scandal...


To the prosecutors, the substances Bonds said he was using sounded like "the cream" and "the clear," two steroids designed to be undetectable in laboratory testing that Victor Conte, founder of BALCO, is accused of marketing to elite athletes, sometimes with Anderson as middleman. [Link]

The prosecutors assumed that the substances that Bonds referred to -- "the cream" and "the clear" -- referred to undetectable steroids.

Bonds looks like he used steroids and HGH, just look at a picture of him in the early 1990's, and compare it to a picture of him in this millennium. His head is bigger, his torso is bigger, even his feet are bigger.

Thankfully in this country, you cannot be indicted just because you look like you did something. Unless it can be scientifically proven that one cannot have an increase in head, torso, or foot size in his late-30's and beyond, all of the observations about Bonds is just ancillary evidence -- it's moot.

What is astounding, though, is that of those suspended for using steroids, most are pitchers and/or scrawny:

List of Major League Baseball players suspended for performance-enhancing drugs

Alex Sanchez OF 70 179 28
Jorge Piedra OF 72 190 26
Agustin Montero P 75 210 27
Jamal Strong OF 70 180 27
Juan Rincon P 71 187 26
Rafael Betancourt P 74 176 30
Rafael Palmeiro 1B/DH 72 188 41
Ryan Franklin P 75 165 32
Mike Morse SS 76 220 23
Carlos Almanzar P 74 166 32
Felix Heredia P 72 160 30
Matt Lawton OF 69 180 34
Jason Grimsley P 75 180 39
Guillermo Mota P 76 205 33
Juan Salas P 74 190 29
AVERAGE 9 Pitchers (60%) 73.0 185.1 30.5
2 Infielders (13%)
4 Outfielders (27%)

So, the average player that has been caught using steroids is 30 years old (although Rafael Palmeiro and Jason Grimsley really bring that average age up), is 73 inches tall (6'1"), and 185 pounds. 60% of those that have been caught are pitchers. Only 3 of the 15 players (20%) are 200 pounds or heavier.

There have been a lot of people with first-hand accounts of Bonds' steroid usage.

All that amounts to is hearsay. Just because some people say that he did something does not automatically mean that he is guilty. Like the observations made about Bonds' body, these claims are just ancillary evidence. Witness testimony isn't even trusted that much anymore, since psychological findings say that it is highly suggestible [Link]. For your reference, here's what's been said about Bonds' alleged steroid use:

Bonds jumps from 49 HR to 73 HR from 2000 to 2001 -- a 49% increase -- and that is evidence of his steroid use.

What is it about going from 49 HR to 73 that is so mystical? Is it the actual percentage? Or is it the depth at which the increase is made?

Given a good search engine or enough free time, one could find thousands of players who had a higher jump from one career-high HR total to another than Bonds. For instance, Jimmy Rollins' career-high in HR was 14 (2001, '04), but had a 79% increase to 25 HR in '05. Brandon Inge went from 16 HR in '05 to 27 in '06 -- a 68.75% increase. How about Brady Anderson? His career high was 21 HR in 1992, but had a 138% jump to 50 HR in 1996. So, if the actual percentage is the scare factor, then we should be accusing tons of players of using steroids.

Is it the depth at which the spike occurs? Then what of Roger Maris' jump from 39 HR in 1960 to 61 HR in '61 -- a 56.4% increase (higher than Bonds)? Jimmie Foxx -- 37 HR in 1930 to 58 in 1932, a 56.7% increase. Luis Gonzalez -- 31 HR in 2000 to 57 in '01, an 84% increase. Ken Griffey, Jr. -- 27 HR in 1992 to 45 in '93, a 66.7% increase. I think that's enough to shoot this theory down...

...however, let's just remind ourselves of all of the other factors that may or may not have played a factor in the power surge over the last 20 years or so:

Bonds is egotistical, and couldn't stand not being the absolute best player, so he turned to steroids.

This is essentially a strawman argument. While Bonds' behavior may certainly lend credence to the assumption that he is concerned mostly with himself, the only way this theory gets any credence is if there is actual evidence (i.e. a tape-recorded conversation, an E-Mail, etc.) that shows that Bonds attempted to satiate his ego by using steroids. Otherwise, it's just psychobabble by people without a degree in any field of psychology.


Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco, in writing Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, broke the code held among players by airing publicly what went on in Major League locker rooms. While not illegal and certainly not a punishable offense, Canseco sold himself and those he names in his book (McGwire, Giambi, Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, and Juan Gonzalez, among others -- [Link]) for profit, and, perhaps, peace of mind.

Jason Giambi

Jason Giambi has been an enigma with the entire steroids issue. He admitted, in his grand jury testimony that, like Bonds', was illegally leaked, that he used steroids and HGH. He vaguely apologized to Yankees fans, but never specifically apologized for using steroids. Most likely, he was apologizing for the negative media attention and distractions he brought to the team. On May 16, 2007, he apologized again for "using that stuff." Seeing a small ray of light shine out of an otherwise dark cloud surrounding baseball, commissioner Bud Selig suggested, then nearly mandated that Giambi speak with former Senator George Mitchell regarding his and others' use of performance-enhancing drugs. It's highly unlikely that Giambi does anything but repeat what he said in his grand jury testimony.

Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire never had to take a mandatory drug test, and he's never admitted to using anything other than androstenedione, which was legal at the time he was using it [Link]. And because one is innocent until proven guilty in the United States, Mark McGwire, too, is innocent, despite the heavy suspicion that he was using more than just andro'.

Rafael Palmeiro

Rafael Palmeiro is the only high-profile name to have tested positive for steroids. In retrospect, it is very humorous to watch his testimony before Congress, where he vehemently stated, "I have never used steroids, period." Just over four months later, Palmeiro tested positive for stanozolol.

Bud Selig

Bud Selig, more than Barry Bonds, bears the most disdain from baseball fans for ignoring the issue of steroids in baseball until 2002. Steroids were, apparently, so prevalent in the late 1980's and the 1990's that the entire period is referred to, unofficially, as the "Steroids Era" (like the "Dead Ball Era"). Following the 1994 strike that cut the season about 50 games short and eliminated the playoffs, baseball was struggling to keep television viewership and ticket sales up. Fortunately for, well, everyone, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa came along with their illustrious homerun battle in 1998 and brought baseball back into the American spotlight. If it was not for those two, performance-enhancing drugs or not, baseball would still be struggling and might not have been more popular than hockey to this day. While many people disagree with Selig, from a moral standpoint, for turning a blind eye to steroids, his decision was both justified as a businessman and saved the sport.

Sammy Sosa

Of the players with the highest suspicion of drug use, Sammy Sosa is probably the player most likely to have used them, as he has shown the propensity for cheating, given the fact that he was suspended for using a corked bat on June 3, 2003 [Link]. Sosa has undergone mandatory drug testing as per the rules, and has not failed a test.

Amateur conspiracy theorists like to point to his missing 2006 season, time Sosa took off from baseball after turning down the only deal offered to him following a horrendous 2005 season with the Baltimore Orioles -- a $500,000 Minor League contract from the Washington Nationals. Those theorists claim that Sosa took the year off to clean his body of any drugs he was using, but it doesn't make sense because his '05 campaign is, following their logic that higher production means steroid use, evidence that he was off them.

Still, others will cite his performance in front of Congress, when Sosa, McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling, and Frank Thomas testified regarding the use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout baseball. Sosa, oddly enough, would not speak without a translator, even though he's clearly spoken English well whenever the cameras had been on him before. He had even done commercials for Pepsi. The theorists will posit that Sosa was lying about his ability to speak English in order to evade tough questions about his use of steroids. While it is completely possible that that theory is entirely correct, it is also possible that Sosa was nervous speaking in front of Congress and did not want to say anything he'd regret, especially given that English is not his native tongue (he's from the Dominican Republic).


As a fan, and as someone not in charge of any committee that could potentially punish Bonds, you have a few forms of voicing your opinion:

Also, as a fan, you cannot justify the following:

Further Reading

If you feel that I have not excluded anything, big or small, or if you feel that I have not accurately cited a claim, do not hesitate to let me know (contact information is at the bottom of the home page).