Steroid Use in Professional Sports: Punishment too Little

Jose Conseco was one of the best power hitters in Major League baseball during his time. But when hearing his name, most people remember him for something different. Conseco is better known as the guy who admitted to taking steroids, and crediting steroids for improving his game and making him a stronger, better baseball player. In his book Juiced, Conseco goes into detail about how and why he took steroids, and explains how he thinks steroids are the future of sports (1). Conseco’s experiences and stories will show how steroids are negatively affecting professional sports.

Many athletes feel the need to take steroids to help make them better at their sport, and give them a competitive edge over the competition. Athletes use anabolic steroids, a drug that promotes the storage of protein and growth of tissue to increase their muscle size and strength (“Steroids” par. 4). Basically, anabolic steroids help athletes get unnaturally stronger and more muscular. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the drug can be either taken as a pill, or injected with a needle (par. 4). Although this drug can’t make a person more athletic, more skillful or more agile, people still take the drug as a shortcut to gaining muscle. Steroids are banned in most professional sports, like pro football, baseball, and basketball. This ban is to not only keep the game fair, but it looks out for the safety of the athletes, since just some of the side effects include heart disease, liver damage, shrinking of the testicles, and “roid rage” (“Steroids”, par. 2-6).

In recent NFL news, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was caught videotaping opponents’ defensive signs to figure out what plays the opponents run. The Patriots and Belichick were fined, and the team will be losing their next draft pick, a huge penalty in sports (Reiss par. 1). But when athletes are caught cheating by using banned substances to enhance their muscle growth, the penalty is much lighter than Belichick’s. Although steroids are banned from pro sports, and can be extremely dangerous, the National football league only suspends a player four games for a first offense of steroid abuse. Along with the NFL, most sports do not have very harsh punishments for violating steroid laws; the NFL does not even use blood tests to monitor steroid use (Jordin, par. 3). This makes it more likely that an athlete would use steroids, since even if they are caught they wouldn’t get in too much trouble (Jordin par 3).

Major league baseball also has a huge steroid problem. Pete Rose, who surely would have made the baseball hall of fame, was caught gambling on baseball games. Although he was one of the best hitters in the history of the sport, he was banned from the hall of fame forever. Meanwhile, Rafael Palmeiro was caught taking steroids but was only suspended for ten games and will still have a good shot at making the hall of fame (Jordin par. 1 and 2).Many players have been investigated for steroid use, including many great players and future hall of famers like Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. Although many baseball players are caught legitimately cheating, their punishments are not very bad. Although all sports should crack down on steroid use, specifically professional baseball and football should have stricter punishments for athletes who abuse steroids.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, which is in charge of steroid testing for the Olympics, has random blood and urine tests, and has a two year ban from competition for violators (Armour par. 2). Having such short suspensions for using steroids might make an athlete think that it is worth the risk, and it wouldn’t be too bad if they did get caught. The short punishment sends the message that it is wrong to use steroids but isn’t that bad. Taking these drugs to gain muscle violates social justice since it is unfair to the normal, law binding athlete. It also hurts the human right to live a long and healthy life since the drug is very dangerous to one’s health. Major League Baseball and the National Football League should step up the punishments involving steroid abuse not only to make the games fair again but also to protect the health of the people taking the drugs.
Keeping the Sport Fair

One reason why there should be worse punishments for abusing steroids is to try to keep professional sports fair. Athletes nowadays will do anything to get an edge over their opponent, including cheating. Steroids have definitely changed professional baseball. Former star player Jose Conseco states in his book that “One day…steroid use will be more common then Botox is now. Every baseball player and pro athlete will be using at least low levels of steroids” (2). This outcome would be unacceptable. This would hurt social justice since doing the right thing would result in not being as good or strong as the other athletes. Those athletes trying to do the right thing by staying healthy and not taking steroids would have a distinct unfair disadvantage. The athletes taking steroids are increasing their strength and allowing themselves to hit a baseball farther or tackle someone better. The athletes obeying the rules will not have this drastic muscle increase. Steroids do not add talent to the person taking them, but they still make the person stronger. Jose Canseco, in his book, also added “Did steroids make me a better baseball player? Of course they did” (2). Athletes will surely notice their competitors around them becoming stronger, and naturally they will most likely want to do the same to keep up with everyone else. It is, after all, their job to be good at the sport they play, and if they are not as good as everyone else, their job could be in jeopardy. Recently in the news was gold medalist Marion Jones who admitted to using the designer steroid commonly called “the clear.” The games that take place at the Olympics are won and lost by fractions of a second, and steroid use alters the times of the games by fractions of a second also, making the games won or lost because of steroid use. Jones was stripped of her three gold medals and two bronze medals and banned from competition for two years (Armour par. 2). Jones did give her medals back, but that does not make things right again. I immediately thought of the poor people who came in second to her, or finished shortly after her, who trained their hardest without using steroids. They still did not win their event back in the 2000 Olympic Games, and winning because the person that beat you had cheated does not feel the same as winning outright. The loyal fans who cheered for Jones most likely felt like she let them down by cheating, and making the Olympics unfair. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is widely praised for its strict punishments for those who abuse steroids, gave a fair punishment for her steroid abuse, though, suspending her for two years (Jordin par. 6). Other people training for the Olympics will probably read about what happened to Marion Jones, and be determined not to let that happen to them also. The NFL and Professional Baseball should use the same punishment that the Olympics used. Not only does steroid use make professional sports unfair, but it has many negative side effects that are often times life threatening.
Protecting the Athletes’ Health

Another reason why it is important to increase the punishment for steroid use to prevent athletes from taking the drugs is to keep the athletes healthy. Almost all of the sports figures taking steroids know that there are health issues, but they obviously feel that it is more important to gain the competitive edge over their competition. There are numerous health risks that result from taking steroids, including heart disease, liver damage, cancers, headaches, aching joints, baldness, and many more (“Steroids” par. 7). Some male side effects include reduced sperm count, and enlarged prostate, while female side effects include deepened voice, menstrual problems, and an increase in facial and body hair (“Steroids” par 7). All these side affects destroy the human right to live a healthy life. There are many reported deaths that are suspected to have been caused by steroid use, including the death of two weightlifters that were known anabolic steroid users. They died from thromboembolic events, formations in the blood vessel of a clot, which are suspected to be an affect of anabolic steroid use (Lenehan, 38). Another example of an athlete who died because of steroid use is Chris Benoit, a WWE wrestler. It is suspected that Benoit, a known steroid user, was affected by “Roid Rage” and killed his wife, child, and then himself. Anabolic steroids were found in his home after the murders (Roberts par. 3). Events like this will become more and more common if more and more athletes continue to take steroids. Major League Baseball and the NFL need to be looking out for the health of their athletes, and should punish those who break their rules severely. Athletes should be more concerned about their health, but many seem to only think about what they can do to make themselves better at their sport at that point in time, failing to think about their future. Without a strict punishment, the players will feel less discouraged to taking the drugs. Athletes need to realize that taking steroids can ruin their careers and their lives. Although no punishment, no matter how harsh, will prevent everyone from trying to cheat, a more severe punishment would prevent many from taking steroids. With all the risks involved with steroids, many steps should be taken to prevent athletes from taking them, including much worse punishments for those who break the rules.

Steroid use is a critical topic that needs to be taken more seriously. Better rules and regulations need to be enforced to prevent steroid use for everyone to help lessen early deaths and sicknesses caused by steroid use. These deaths can be easily avoided and are unnecessary. If steroid use was properly watched over and prevented, the world of sports and society as a whole would all be a better, healthier place.

Works Cited
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Rethinking the Male Athlete Assumption.” Sociological Perspectives Vol. 45, No. 4, pg. 467-489, 2002. 4 October 2007.

Reiss, Mike. “Big Fines for Belichick, Team.” The Boston Globe. 14 September 2007. 14
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Roberts, Jim. “Chris Benoit Steroid Use, the WWE and Vince McMahon: Now What?”
National Ledger 28 June 2007. 12 October 2007
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Author: Bradley Sinko

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