Performance enhancing drugs in sports have always been something that is difficult to monitor. Almost any drug that will make you play better on the field are banned, keeping talent at its most natural and authentic level. Unfortunately, many athletes still use theses drugs to try and gain an advantage over their opponents. Often times, these individuals are aware of the fact that what they are doing is not allowed, but there is a lot of money on the line. Nowadays professional athletes make millions of dollars, money that the best players in any league 40 years ago would have thought to have been unimaginable. Players in Major League Baseball sign contracts that span over eight to ten years, paying them upwards of $300 million over that time. When that kind of money is available, people will do anything to give themselves a chance at making it.
Although there can be improved statistics to go along with the use of steroids, a reputation is far more important. Unfortunately for baseball especially, many careers have been tainted by players breaking the rules, and along with those rules—breaking records as well. Although some players had outstanding seasons and great careers, if their name is even whispered when talks of performance-enhancing drugs are being had, it’s enough for people to begin to speculate. The early 1990’s through the early 2000’s in baseball were referred to as “The Steroid Era” as many individuals in Major League Baseball were doping. Steroids were officially banned in 1991 from the sport of baseball, but the presence of performance enhancing drugs was only becoming more apparent. Since league-wide drug testing was not conducted until 2003, players were able to get away with taking steroids and never be rightfully punished.
From 1961 to 1994, only three players hit 50 or more home runs in a single season in the MLB. During the 1997 baseball season, Mark McGwire was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals and would do the unthinkable. He finished out that season with a whopping 70 home runs and finishing in a close second to him was Chicago Cubs player Sammy Sosa, who hit 66 home runs. Clearly there was something strange going on, as there was a league wide surge in power numbers. It seemed as if baseball knew what was going on, but possibly turned a blind eye to it. There was a strike that ended in the 1994 season early, so maybe the MLB wanted the league to come back stronger than ever- literally and figuratively. McGwire admitted to using a substance that was banned by the NFL and NCAA just one year later, but his tainted record would not stand for long. In 2001, Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit 73 home runs in a single season, breaking the already unbelievable record. Bonds had never hit 50 home runs in a single season prior to 2001, raising even more questions.
In 1996, Eddie Murray became the 15th player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs in their career, and the first to accomplish the feat since 1987. From 1998 to 2009, this group was seemingly easier to be a part of. Ten players reached 500 career home runs in those short 11 years that passed, which was the most the league had ever seen. The kicker is this; six of those ten players (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire) have been directly linked to the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs throughout that time span. Performance enhancing drugs in professional sports are always going to be around. The four major sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB) have done everything they can to prevent the use of them by implementing suspensions and fines as punishment. As for younger individuals in high school and college, it’s important that they take a step back and realize that the risk they are taking is almost never worth the reward.