We Can't Diminish the Records of Performance Enhancing Drug Users

Justin NormanCorrespondent IJuly 28, 2010

CLEVELAND - JULY 26:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees pops up during his ninth inning at bat while playing  the Cleveland Indians on July 26, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Before I begin, I want to make it crystal clear that I am actually quite an A-Rod hater, especially after his interview with Peter Gammons after admitting to steroids, where all he could say was "it was a loosey-goosey era."

I also hate Barry Bonds. Who doesn't? And I know steroids are illegal, but it's important to recognize that they weren't illegal when many players took them, and it's impossible to know who actually took steroids. 

But, as A-Rod approaches his milestone 600th home run, I have heard a lot of chatter from baseball fans who want to diminish his statistics. While I understand their point of view, I just can't agree with diminishing a PED users' stats, milestones, and records anymore.

PEDs have, unfortunately, became a part of baseball. Its gotten so bad that there is an era, known as the Steroid Era, that defines the time in which steroid usage was at its peak. We will really never know how many players actually used steroids before, during, or after the Steroid Era.

The problem with PEDs and baseball is it is impossible to quantify how much PEDs helped players' performance. I heard one person say that at least 100 of A-Rod's home runs shouldn't be counted due to his steroid use, while another thought that since A-Rod hit 91 home runs while in Texas (he admitted to steroid use from 2001-2003 while he played for the Rangers), those 91 homers shouldn't count.

I have a big problem with that thinking. If you are going to diminish home runs, it has to be all or nothing. It is impossible to say whether or not steroids aided any of those home runs that A-Rod hit. In fact, there are actually a lot more factors that affect home runs than just PEDs. Here are just a few of several factors:

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  • Technology: Baseball bats have come a long way since the dawn of baseball. Now, bats are quite a technological marvel, and the bigger and better sweet spots allow for more power out of the swing. Imagine how many home runs Babe Ruth could have hit if he used the bats that players use today!
  • Technology (part 2): Training (without PEDs) is so advanced at this point that players are bigger and stronger than ever. When comparing the accomplishments of players now to players in the early 1900s, it really is like comparing apples to oranges. Yet, we still need to name a home run king in all of baseball history. Is that fair?
  • Stadiums: In just New York, the two stadiums are polar opposites. Yankee Stadium is notoriously small, while Citi Field is notoriously large. Can you say that some "cheap" home runs in Yankee Stadium are diminished because they would not have been a home run in any other park? Can you diminish the statistics of players who played in Coors Field when balls were flying out of there before they kept the baseballs in humidors?

The point is, there are a lot more contextual factors that go into records and statistics than just PEDs. If we don't diminish statistics for other factors, we can't for steroids. I know that steroids are an illegal substance, but at the height of the steroid era, they weren't banned by baseball. I really can't blame the players for using PEDs to get any advantage they can, in a game as competitive as baseball, while using PEDs wasn't illegal. Can you?

In fact, we really don't know how many actually used PEDs. There have been players who have used PEDs that we never would have in thought would use them. Rafael Palmeiro and Andy Pettitte are two that come to my mind.

So, if we are going to name a home run king, and compare players who played generations apart, we can't rule out any eras. The steroid era is just another era in baseball. PEDs are a factor that affect statistics just as much as any other factor. 

I don't want to condone players using illegal substances, but I can't blame them either. As a college student, I liken the use of PEDs to the use of Adderall, or any other study drug. Due to the rigor of college, tons of students illegally take the perscription drug Adderall like it's no big deal, to study better. It's impossible to know how much better of grades students get from taking Adderall, though, or how many students actually take a study drug. You can't say that a student really got a 3.4 GPA, when his/her transcript says 3.7 and he/her took Adderall. Same thing with steroids.

When it comes to study drugs, there is no testing by colleges for it, so you can't really blame students for trying to get any advantage they can. Same as in baseball, before PEDs were illegal, all players did was try to get any advantage they could.

With that, I'm not going to say Barry Bonds isn't the home run king, and A-Rod isn't one home run away from the 600 home run club. I can't diminish a PED user's statistics because it's impossible to know how much PEDs helped them, and it's impossible to know who actually took PEDs.

If you want to diminish an admitted steroid user's records, that's fine. If your opinion is that they cheated, I can't argue. But keep in mind that we really don't know who else cheated, or how much they cheated. 

You won't see me celebrating A-Rod's 600th home run, but you won't see me cursing the milestone either. It's just part of baseball. 


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