TV, newspapers and radio stations across the land and indeed across the globe have told the stories but the Mitchell report can be credited with most of the notoriety of the steroids online scandal. Ordered by Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, a 20 month investigation by Senator George Mitchell resulted in a 400 plus page report documenting ‘Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball’ naming 89 players.
Whether you agree or not with the way it directly accused some of our biggest sports heroes of steroid abuse, it prompted the league to put stronger rules and guidelines in place to combat the issue. In the long run, the game of baseball will benefit by ‘cleaning up its act’ and ridding its players of this potentially harmful practice.
This writer will not name names to use individual players as examples, the Mitchell Report has already, in my opinion, unnecessarily crossed that boundary. The damage done to possibly innocent players may be irreversible. The abuse had to be brought to light but pointing the accusatory finger at these public figures went too far. The harsh spotlight no doubt forced many of the guilty parties into the light of day but also dragged some of the innocent through the mud. Senator Mitchell may have believed all in the report were guilty or he may have felt that anybody falsely accused were collateral damage…only he can say.
America’s game will, at least for the foreseeable future, be affected by this controversy. Contemporary players will have their achievements questioned. Did they cheat to get there? Home run records, hitting streaks, 95 plus mile an hour fastballs…were they really accomplished with hard work and dedication? Will there be asterisks and footnotes qualifying their achievements? Were key games, playoffs or World Series titles won with the help of these performance enhancing drugs? Fans will understandably wonder, knowing there’s a possibility that the records we love to brag were reached because somebody cheated.
Anabolic steroids are a performance enhancing drug. They increase protein synthesis in the cells resulting in an increase of tissue, especially muscle. Increased muscle equates to increase strength and stamina. Seemingly a perfect marriage for a professional athlete. The problem is that steroid use over a long period of time can affect other bodily functions, including the natural production of testosterone, raising bad cholesterol levels while lowering good cholesterol levels, it can potentially cause liver damage, high blood pressure, insomnia, balding, jaundice and an increased risk heart disease.
Behavioral problems like increased aggression, paranoia and mood swings can be another side effect with continued use. Some argue that pro athletes who use steroids know these risks and are willing accept them to gain their benefits. The real issue is the young athletes that idolize these players and see the ‘benefits’ of steroid use as their favorite players rack up the home runs, strikeouts and batting averages not to mention the big money. They naturally want to emulate these players and may not consider the consequences of steroid use.
A good education may be dependent on a sports scholarship and a kid looking for an edge may succumb to the temptation. It’s not unheard of to have high school coaches introduce young players to the substance and most schools don’t do testing. While steroid use is potentially harmful to pro athletes, their affects on teens and tweens is multiplied simply because their bodies are still growing and steroids can severely impact their development, both physically and mentally.
Major League Baseball will survive this dilemma and continue on as America’s game. The fan base is too big and too dedicated for it not to. The bruising it’s taking now will fade in time and will become an unfortunate part of baseball lore. The steroid scandal will provide grist for the mill and fodder for the media for probably some time to come as they ponder who may or may not have been involved. Would the Cubbies still be without a World Series Ring?…Would Hammerin’ Hank still hold the home run record?