Legality Argument for Excluding Steroid Users from the HoF Reeks of Hypocrisy

Joe HalversonCorrespondent IJune 25, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 19:  Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds throws out the first pitch prior to Game Three of the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 19, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa set to join the Hall of Fame ballot next year, the debate about how to vote for confirmed or suspected steroid users figures to be more intense than ever before. 

Already, we are seeing members of the BBWAA (which conducts the voting) expressing their opinions that those suspected of steroids need not apply. 

One of the most common arguments against the induction of confirmed or suspected steroid users into the Hall of Fame is that, while MLB had no formal system of monitoring or punishments until 2005, steroids themselves were declared to be against the rules in a memorandum from then-MLB commissioner Fay Vincent back in 1991. 

And since steroids themselves were made illegal without a prescription in 1990, many voters reason that they were against MLB rules no matter what simply because they were against the law.

So why didn't this line of reasoning apply to the many generations of amphetamine users that currently populate the Hall of Fame?

It is common knowledge that Major League Baseball was fueled by amphetamines (commonly referred to as greenies) for the better part of five decades. 

MLB commissioner Bud Selig, who has been involved with MLB in Milwaukee since the 1950s, first learned about amphetamine usage in the Braves’ clubhouse in 1958. 

A few players, most notably HOFers Hank Aaron and Mike Schmidt, have been very open about both personal usage and the prevalence of greenies in baseball during their careers.

Sports Illustrated laid the issue right in front of us in 1969 and again in 1980

And most famously of all, Jim Bouton’s chronicling of the issue in Ball Four resulted in the former MLB pitcher's blacklisting by the game for years.

While the rumor of large containers of greenies being handed out like candy is probably an exaggeration, it is abundantly clear that amphetamines were readily available in MLB clubhouses and went largely unchecked until MLB began testing in 2006.

And you cannot make the claim that the legality argument doesn’t apply to greenies. 

Amphetamines were listed a Schedule II drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act and were prohibited by MLB the following year, making them no more legal in baseball than steroids in 1991.

Finally, many people will point out that steroids are much better performance enhancers, and there is certainly some truth to that.  A person who combines steroid usage with weight training and good nutrition will see better results than a person who does not use the juice.  

Greenies, while listed on MLB's banned substances list, provide a very different (and arguably lesser) form of performance enhancement.

But performance enhancement is not actually the reason that steroids are against the law or against the rules of the game. 

There are plenty of substances, ranging from creatine to dietary supplements to even caffeine, that can also provide boosts in performance or training of athletes yet remain legal and allowed by MLB.

The reason steroids are illegal is because they are associated with serious health risks if used for a prolonged amount of time, and it is considered unfair to make all athletes take these risks just to keep up with the Joneses. 

And here’s the thing:  amphetamine usage is actually more dangerous than steroid usage. 

Amphetamines are highly addictive, meaning that it is far more likely that users will see the negative side effects of prolonged usage than they would with other drugs. 

Charles Yesalis, a leading steroid and stimulant expert at Penn State University, says that amphetamines are even capable of killing the user immediately.

This is one of the reasons why amphetamines are listed as a Schedule II drug while steroids (which have microscopic rates of addiction) are Schedule III.  Simply put, amphetamines are a far more serious health risk than steroids.

By no means am I saying that any player who is either known or suspected of amphetamine should be excluded from Cooperstown.  However, any voter who believes that steroid users should be excluded better be leading the charge to remove such players from the Hall of Fame. After all, if they believe that those players should still be inducted, they have no excuse for excluding the best players from the Steroid Era.