On January 8, 2014 the votes cast by several hundred baseball writers for players to be admitted to Baseball’s Hall of Fame will be announced. Many of the candidates played during what is called “The Steroid Era.” Each voter had to decide not only does a player’s statistics merit their vote but how should a player’s involvement with PEDs affect their vote. In 1990 Congress cracked down on anabolic steroids by passing the Anabolic Steroids Control Act effectively making them an illegal drug. Before stating my opinion on the Steroid Era and the Hall of Fame, I would like to present a timeline on the steps taken by the MLB to eliminate PEDs from baseball.
In 1991, MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said, “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited. Major League players or personnel involved in the possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance are subject to discipline by the Commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game. This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription.” Early in the 1997 season, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig issued a memo that essentially repeated what was said in Fay Vincent’s 1991 memo urging clubs to make sure players knew it. But there was still no testing and no clear-cut punishment for using steroids and other illegal drugs.
In 2002,Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated wrote an article stating, “Steroid use, which a decade ago was considered a taboo violated by a few renegade sluggers, is now so rampant in baseball that even pitchers and wispy outfielders are juicing up. According to players, trainers and executives interviewed by SI over the last three months, the game has become a pharmacological trade show.” That same year, maybe as a result of the SI story, the MLB and the players’ union entered into a new labor deal that included a provision to begin random testing for steroids and other PEDs.
In 2003 testing got underway, but the tests were to be anonymous and would carry no punishments. The purpose was simply a survey to find out how many players were juicing. Baseball would only take the next step if more than five percent of the league was using PEDs
.In November of 2003, the results showed more than five percent of the league was using PEDs.This led to the MLB starting mandatory testing in 2004. According to MLB.com any playertesting positive would immediately enter the ‘Clinical Track’ to be treated for steroid use. If a player under treatment fails another test, is convicted or pleads guilty to the sale and or use of a prohibited substance, that player would immediately be moved to the ‘Administrative Track’ and subject to discipline. Later in December of 2004, Bud Selig and the player’s union agreed on a much stricter policy. The policy included: a 10-day ban for first-time offenders, a 30-day ban for second-time offenders, a 60-day ban for third-time offenders and a one-year ban for fourth-time offenders. Also first-time offenders would have their names made public. Immediately following the conclusion of the 2005 season, the MLB and the union signed off on much harsher PED penalties that called for: a 50-game ban for first-time offenders, a 100-game ban for second-time offenders, and a lifetime ban for third-time offenders. The MLB and the players’ union also added amphetamines to the banned list, with multiple positive tests for those potentially resulting in a lifetime ban.
It took a long time for the MLB and the union to get around to it, but the two sides had finally decided that PED users needed to be punished into submission. To be continued…