6 PED Users Who Have Been Given an Unfair Free Pass
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Any fair weather baseball fan is aware of the steroid era we currently suffer through, filled with bureaucratic reports, player confessions (or lack thereof) and widespread cheating (to put it bluntly).
As unfortunate as it is to say, the battle towards purity is far from over.
Is this fair?
Players that have made, and continue to make, a significant impact on the game are also admitted users of PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs). This calls into question the enormous grey area the MLB has created surrounding the use of illegal substances.
To many it should be black and white—if a player has used PEDs, the result is a lifetime ban. And we may be heading in that direction.
For now, let's direct our attention to six players who have eluded the league's guillotine.
H/t to Baseball's Steroid Era
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There are a variety of reasons to use PEDs, and there is a collection of different forms of illegal substances.
Andy Pettitte, the 42-year-old pitcher for the New York Yankees, was one of the first players to publicly admit to his usage after the release of the Mitchell Report in 2007.
Quoted in a New York Times article on December 16, 2007, Pettitte stated:
I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped.
The first instance of Pettitte's use of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) was during the 2002 season, three years before the MLB made it an illegal substance. In some sense, the veteran left-hander appears as the good guy. He confessed his usage and called it deplorable.
Then in the 2004 season and during his struggle with a torn flexor tendon in his pitching arm, Pettitte again used HGH "out of frustration and in a futile attempt to recover."
The fact that he confessed reflects well upon Pettitte, but one should not have two lapses in judgment in the eyes of Major League Baseball. This is not a league that should operate on a "three strikes and you're out" ruling. In this case, it was two strikes and you may continue to play.
Pettitte is 3-0 over his last three starts, allowing just one run in 19.2 innings.
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Jason Giambi, the 2000 American League Most Valuable Player and five-time AL All-Star, is one of the most recognized names when it comes to steroid era baseball.
Giambi admitted his use of HGH, testosterone and "undetectable" steroids known as "the cream" and "the clear" in his infamous testimony to the BALCO Grand Jury in December of 2003.
According to Giambi, the supplier of each drug, except the HGH, was Greg Anderson, the weight trainer for then San Francisco Giant Barry Bonds. He attained the hormones from a gym in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Part of the reasoning behind a blank Hall of Fame ballot this past year was the tainted resume of so many players. So, should the New York Yankees 2003 season, in which they won the AL Pennant over the Boston Red Sox, be considered fraudulent as well? In his 2003 campaign, Giambi hit 41 home runs aided by his rampant PED use.
Somehow the aging slugger has remained relevant at the age of 42, playing in scattered games for the Cleveland Indians, hitting eight home runs to add to his career total of 437.
Somewhere a line must be drawn.
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Miguel Tejada was regarded as one of the premier shortstops in the league during the early to mid-2000s. Beginning his career in Oakland with the Athletics and continuing his success as a Baltimore Oriole, Tejada was the AL MVP in 2002 when he hit .308 with 34 home runs and 131 RBI.
Tejada has never admitted outright to using PEDs, but there is substantial evidence proving he attained illegal substances on multiple occasions, leading to possible conclusions otherwise.
In February of 2009, Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress during previous steroid cases. He confessed to holding back information concerning other MLB players and his personal purchase of HGH while playing for the Athletics.
A section from the Mitchell Report documents exchanges between Tejada and former teammate Adam Piatt, who discussed access to PEDs with Tejada and provided the six-time All-Star with testosterone or Deca-Durabolin, an anabolic steroid, and HGH. Piatt was unaware whether Tejada actually used the substances or not.
Another indication of Tejada's potential PED use comes at the hands of former teammate Rafael Palmeiro, a known steroid user. Palmeiro, who was suspended from baseball in 2005 due to PED use, claims the positive test may have come from a B-12 shot he obtained from Tejada.
My question is: Why do ball payers feel the need to supplement their natural talent with so much junk?
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Major League Baseball first tested for steroids in 2003. On that list appeared the name of David Ortiz, better known as Big Papi in New England, an idolized baseball figure and a huge part of the two World Series rings the Red Sox have won in the past decade.
The names on that list were supposed to remain anonymous, however, according to the Times article, the report was never destroyed and lawyers working on the case revealed the names of the two Red Sox players, among others.
No one, not even Ortiz, was notified of which illegal substance he had tested positive for. Incredibly, to this day, Ortiz still has not received a shred of information concerning the report.
In an interview with local radio station WEEI and quoted in a Sports Illustrated piece, Ortiz stated when asked if he ever heard anything:
No. Nobody. Not MLB. Not the Players Association. Nobody. They just threw it out there that I tested positive on this one list and that was it. Nothing. So I have to deal with that, and your mind is all over the place. And I’ve lived with it.
We cannot make any substantial conclusions either way, but it is difficult to remove all suspicion when a player at his age (37) with a history of nagging injuries is still producing at such a high level.
The truth cannot stay hidden forever.
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With 509 career home runs to his name, it's not necessarily surprising to attach Gary Sheffield's name to the list of steroid users in the game of baseball. With that said, it is shocking that his name is not grouped with the likes of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Ken Caminiti.
After all, Sheffield trained with Bonds during the 2001-02 offseason and received PEDs directly from the hands of one of the most notorious steroid users in the game.
Four years removed from baseball, Sheffield will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015. When the ballot comes around, will the BBWAA consider his admission of using a testosterone-based steroid supplied to him by BALCO?
Sheffield came clean about his use of "the cream", as well as pill forms of steroids, that he received from Bonds in a Sports Illustrated piece quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004.
"(Bonds) said, 'I got guys here, they can get your urine and blood and prescribe a vitamin specifically for your blood type and what your body needs.' And that's what I did."
Sheffield called his 2002 season (the season following his steroid use) his "worst year ever." He hit .307 with 25 home runs and 84 RBI. He dwarfed those numbers in 2003, batting .330 and slugging 39 home runs while driving in 132 runs.
You be the judge.
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The 1998 baseball season hosted one of the most memorable statistical races in history. The home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa was a power display like few baseball fans had seen before.
On September 8th, 1998, McGwire hit a scorching line-drive home run over the left field wall at Busch Stadium to eclipse Roger Maris' 61 home run total hit in 1961.
Eleven years later, in the early days of 2010, McGwire finally came clean on his consistent steroid use over the course of his 16-year career.
While speaking to Bob Costas on the MLB Network, McGwire made three distinct points. First, that he only used the substances to aid in his recovery from injury. Two, the doses he either injected or took orally were very low. And three, that the drugs did not increase his on-field ability.
Since admitting to his usage, McGwire has been given a pardon of sorts by the MLB, even by Bud Selig who complimented the retired slugger on his honesty. Part of McGwire's confession was to clean the slate before returning to the game as the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach during the 2010 season.
All said, the then single-season home run king adamantly believes his records hold merit. As he affirmed to Costas:
Absolutely. I truly believe so. I was given this gift by the man upstairs. My track record as far as hitting home runs...my first at-bat in the league was a home run. They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school. They still talk about the home runs I hit in [American] Legion. They still talk about the home runs I hit in college [USC] -- I led the nation in home runs. They still talk about the home runs I hit in the Minor Leagues.
Does McGwire deserve repercussions? Yes, he does. But there are not many, if any, tangible ways to go about it other than stripping his records.
That race was too great for baseball's image to tarnish.
So what do you suggest?