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Nixing the Needle.

Steroids are the biggest cheat in Major League Baseball.

I don’t think Major League Baseball has really made an attempt to test for steroids in their players often enough in order to wipe out abuse and protect the integrity of the game. This has been going on for decades and that’s common knowledge, even to the layperson. Bigger bodies, bigger muscles – it’s cheating! This is not just a baseball problem; it’s a professional sports problem in general, but let’s face it: baseball seems to be the most culpable at the moment.

The problem is that the punishments aren’t harsh enough. A ten-day suspension is like a slap on the wrist; the penalties that the Olympic Committee uses are severe – and that’s the answer to the problem. A ten-day suspension means nothing. If you’re going to indulge in performance-enhancing drugs, which takes you to a level beyond that of your normal capabilities, you should be banned for life.

While it may not be an issue that affects the betting public, it’s the integrity of the game and the records that suffer – especially in the power areas – home runs and slugging percentages.

People may say: “Well everyone’s doing so it levels the playing field.” But I don’t think that’s the case. It’s in the minority – maybe 15% to 20% of Major League players either engage or have engaged in the use of steroids. It’s those kind of figures that can tip the scale.

Major League Baseball – the owners, the commissioners, have turned a blind eye on this for too long. They’ve known about it, but they don’t acknowledge it. It’s a lack of supervision and monitoring that have caused the problem. Major League baseball enjoys the fact that guys like Barry Bonds, Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa continue to smash records – and everyone likes records – the only problem is the records are cheats; they’re not valid. You take away the steroids and your taking away 20- 25 home runs a year.

The Congressional hearings and the media attack will draw attention to, and so decrease, the problem, but I don’t think you can wipe it out completely. There will always be new methods and techniques to mask what you’re doing, but as long as baseball wakes up and recognizes that you cannot allow players to pump up records with steroids, it will be on its way out.

I think those who have been labelled as steroid users – the ‘record-busters’ – will have a hard time reaching the hall of fame and I think there’ll be an asterisk next to their records. That, for the time being, will be their real punishment.

By Frank Rosenthal.

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