Pumped-Up Hysteria: Forget the Hype. Steroids Aren't Wrecking Professional Baseball

By Perry, Dayn | Reason, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Pumped-Up Hysteria: Forget the Hype. Steroids Aren't Wrecking Professional Baseball


Perry, Dayn, Reason


HAD KEN CAMINITI been a less famous ballplayer, or had he merely confessed his own sins, then it would have been a transient controversy. But it wasn't. Last May, Caminiti, in a cathartic sit-down with Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, became the first major league baseball player, current or retired, to admit to using anabolic steroids during his playing days. Specifically, he said he used them during the 1996 season, when he was named the National League's Most Valuable Player. And his truth session didn't stop there.

"It's no secret what's going on in baseball. At least half the guys are using [steroids]," Caminiti told SI. "They talk about it. They joke about it with each other....I don't want to hurt fellow teammates or fellow friends. But I've got nothing to hide."

The suggestion that steroids are a systemic problem in professional athletics is hardly shocking, but such candor from players--particularly baseball players, who until recently weren't subject to league-mandated drug testing--was virtually unheard of. Before the Caminiti flap had time to grow stale, Jose Canseco, another high-profile ex-ballplayer, upped the ante, declaring that a whopping 85 percent of current major league players were "juicing."

The estimates were unfounded, the sources unreliable, and the implications unclear. But a media orgy had begun. The questions that are being asked of the players--Do you think it's worth it? How many are using? Why did the players union wait so long to adopt random testing? Why won't you take a test right now?--are mostly of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" variety. The accusation is ensconced in the question.

This approach may be satisfying to the self-appointed guardians of baseball's virtue, but it leaves important questions unexplored. Indeed, before the sport can solve its steroid problem, it must determine whether it even has one.

From those sounding the clarion call for everything from stricter league policies to federal intervention, you'll hear the same two-pronged concern repeated time and again: Ballplayers are endangering their health and tarnishing baseball's competitive integrity. These are defensible, if dogmatic, positions, but the sporting media's fealty to them obscures the fact that both points are dubious.

A more objective survey of steroids' role in sports shows that their health risks, while real, have been grossly exaggerated; that the political response to steroids has been driven more by a moral panic over drug use than by the actual effects of the chemicals; and that the worst problems associated with steroids result from their black-market status rather than their inherent qualities. As for baseball's competitive integrity, steroids pose no greater threat than did other historically contingent "enhancements," ranging from batting helmets to the color line. It is possible, in fact, that many players who use steroids are not noticeably improving their performance as a result.

There are more than 600 different types of steroids, but it's testosterone, the male sex hormone, that's most relevant to athletics. Testosterone has an androgenic, or masculinizing, function and an anabolic, or tissue-building, function. It's the second set of effects that attracts athletes, who take testosterone to increase their muscle mass and strength and decrease their body fat. When testosterone is combined with a rigorous weight-training regimen, spectacular gains in size and power can result. The allure is obvious, but there are risks as well.

Health Effects

Anecdotal accounts of harrowing side effects are not hard to find--everything from "'roid rage" to sketchy rumors of a female East German swimmer forced to undergo a sex change operation because of the irreversible effects of excess testosterone. But there are problems with the research that undergirds many of these claims. The media give the impression that there's something inevitably Faustian about taking anabolics--that gains in the present will undoubtedly exact a price in the future. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Pumped-Up Hysteria: Forget the Hype. Steroids Aren't Wrecking Professional Baseball
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.