Two Possible Solutions to Baseball's Steroid Problem

John HowellAnalyst IJune 18, 2009

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 06:  Sammy Sosa #21 of the Texas Rangers walks on the field during the MLB spring training game against the Seattle Mariners at Surprise Stadium on March 6, 2007 in Surprise, Arizona. The Mariners defeated the Rangers 10-3.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There may be no crying in baseball, but there's definitely some heavy-duty lying going on. And it isn't just the players saying they've never done drugs.

It's the owners, the managers, the commissioner, the entire baseball establishment. Everyone's lying about drug use. The establishment still wants the public to believe that steroid abuse is the exception rather than the rule.

Sammy Sosa's 2003 test results released yesterday pulled the last little remnant of curtain that was concealing reality not only in the baseball world but the sports world in general. Yes, Sammy did steroids, as did McGwire and Bonds.

So did anyone who suddenly appears to have doubled key measurements overnight. And most of the modern records are tainted because of it. And most likely, it isn't going to stop or even subside now that the last tip of the cat's tail is out of the bag.

So now that denial is no longer an option, what do we do?

There are two realistic solutions to this problem.


No. 1: No Tolerance

Steroid use, and any other drug abuse, can be eradicated very easily.

Make every single player pee before every single game. A player cannot be placed in the lineup until he has passed the urine test.

It might be invasive, but if it is a prerequisite to earning as much as an investment banker for playing a game half the year, then I don't think it's unreasonable. If you value your privacy more than those big contracts, then fine, don't pee.

Of course if you can't play, you don't need the drugs, do you? At least not performance enhancers.

So, if the baseball world decides the purity of the game is more valuable than anything else, this would be the solution. A zero tolerance policy.


No. 2: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

It works in the military doesn't it? Well, maybe not so much, but it seems to be better than all the alternatives.

So why not in baseball, or any other sport? If stability and crisis management is a higher priority than the purity of the sport, there is a simple solution; Stop making an issue of steroid use. 

If a particular player's drug use becomes abusive in any sense that affects the game negatively—for instance, he becomes such a crazed, ranting, ball of aggression that it destroys team relationships, gets umpires assaulted, or otherwise has a visible negative effect—then deal with such situations on a case-by-case basis.

It seems that either of these options is preferable to the current approach of denial coupled with feigned outrage. Either we take the position that steroids are destroying baseball and we eradicate them now, or we take the position that, for the most part, baseball is getting along just fine as it is and we give up the hypocrisy.

Is it too late to take the no tolerance approach? Of course not.

Strict enforcement will eliminate any further abuse and the past is the past. Just put an asterisk on every statistic including wins, losses, and championships prior to today, and start the "no pee no play rule" for tonight's games.

Or, give everyone a pass for the rest of this season and have the specimen cups in every locker on day one of the next spring training.

If this is not going to be done, please don't insult the fans' intelligence and pretend it's still a small problem, an exception, and that it's being dealt with in any serious or systematic way. If you don't want to know, don't ask.

If you want to know, pass out the little cups. Period. End of discussion.