Steroids in baseball may be indecorous but the reality is they have helped win games, series, and championships for many years.  Performance enhancing drugs have been on the rise since the mid-1950’s; but a crackdown in the recent decades has garnered such negative hype that strict repercussions have been aimed at some of the sport’s most admired and talented players.

The witch hunt has persecuted the biggest names in baseball… bringing them through drawn out court trials, attaching their character in the media, and tarnishing their accomplishments with the ever-so-condensing asterisk mark in the record books.

This needs to stop.

Stop the persecutions. Stop the legal actions. Stop with all these distractions.  Let the players, well, play.  All the frenzy that accompanies the controversial issue is a distraction.  An unnecessary distraction from the actual ball game and the time-honored traditions that come with America’s favorite pastime.

What are performance enhancing drugs and how exactly do they work?  Ph.D Craig Freudenrich explains it in simple terms: “A steroid is a chemical substance derived from cholesterol. The body has several major steroid hormones… Catabolic steroids break down tissue, and anabolic steroids build up tissue. Anabolic steroids build muscle and bone mass primarily by stimulating the muscle and bone cells to make new protein.”

Knowing this, it is easy to make the connection as to why an athlete would choose to use.  Anabolic steroids increase muscle strength by allowing new muscle growth.  Building mass and strength of muscles and bones make a player bigger, stronger, and overall, a better athlete than he could be solely by natural methods {e.g. conditioning, weight training, monitored nutrition}.  Having the bigger and stronger body has rewards on so many levels; I think if a baseball player wants those rewards he should have the right to utilize any ‘on’ or ‘off’ the market performance enhancing drug.

Sports fans are not looking at baseball players to do their best; we are looking for plays that make our jaws drop.  Plays that will appear on tonight’s SportsCenter. Plays that will go down in history.  Ones that we will remember weeks, months, even years from now. It is not enough to watch an ordinary game.  We demand excellence…

The attraction of attending a game at a ballpark is to be entertained. We attend to see excitement. We want to see drama.   What makes a baseball game exciting? A homerun!  No one goes to a game to see an outcome of two goose eggs on the scoreboard. Strategic play and runs batted in are commendable ways of scoring, but fans want the excitement of powerful swings and that distinctive c-r-aaa-c-k noise when the bat makes contact with the pitch. Eyes following the ball as it then rockets over the entire length of the field, the outfielder sprinting back to the edge in hoping the hit falls short of the homerun wall, the bleacher creatures all holding up their mitts in hopes of catching that coveted homerun ball. This is excitement. This is baseball. And, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, it is because of steroids a majority of these power hits reach the heights and distances they do.

The use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes brings success to the players. Not only that, it is also good for the financial success of each individual baseball franchise. A winning team is one people want to see. Once a team produces a championship ring, the stadium fills up. It’s a foolproof formula. It is known that winning franchises have fuller (and more enthusiastic) stands of people.  This causes ticket sales to rise. Food and drink sales rise. Merchandise and memorabilia sales rise.  Furthermore, not only does the franchise’s bottom line benefit from a winning team, the economy gets stimulated in the surrounding area.  Local restaurants and bars are hangouts prior to games.  Taxi cabs and mass transits are busy getting people to/from the stadium.  And local merchants capitalize on fans buying jerseys, T-shirts, and baseball caps to wear to the game.   More jobs are created in successful stadiums; there needs to be enough food vendors to meet the demand of all the hungry spectators. Hiring ample hot dog vendors, among others, are needed during the season.  A winning team equals a boost to the stadium’s profits.

Money talks. We have all heard this expression. Baseball players are expected to help their team earn the big ‘W.’ The players who do this the best will make more money.  Simple as that.  Reaching salaries in the millions is done by players whose name we remember.  Bonuses are received by those with the best performances. With all the monetary incentives available, steroids are a way to guarantee financial security for the player and his family.

At this point, I know where your thought process is heading:  Performance enhancing drugs are dangerous to a player’s health. We all know the side effects, so surely, the athletes who are consuming them do as well. And if they know, then why would they risk it? With all the public information about the harmful side effects, anyone would be crazy to alter their body with these substances.

If they choose to chance it, then it is their own prerogative.

We all know the dangerous side effects of smoking cigarettes, yet it is still an individual choice to smoke or not to smoke.  The dangerous side effects of steroids are no worse than the life-ending side effects smoking can bring upon to an individual. Steroid use is typically limited to the duration (or a portion) of their career.  Usage ends once the player ends their career; and according to the US National Library of Medicine & National Institutes of Health the average length of a baseball player’s career is between 5 and 6 years. Some are fortunate to play for much longer; others don’t continue past rookie year. But the highly detailed study of over 6,000 major league baseball position players of the last century shows just how short a span a successful career in baseball really is.  To me, this means the amount of steroid intake—unlike a habit of smoking—has an end point. A player only has a few short years to prove himself in the game of baseball.  The most must be made during that time, why wouldn’t they utilize all tools at their disposal to be as successful and memorable as possible?

*** Disclaimer: This is my Devil’s Advocate assignment. Opinions do not reflect the views of the writer***

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184466/

http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/athletic-drug-test2.htm

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