The recent accusations and admittance of steroid use by baseball superstar Alex Rodriquez has a lot of fans gravely upset. Fans believe that baseball’s superstar players have let them down. From Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens to Alex Rodriguez, one current day legend of the sport to another keeps on making headline news. Who will it be next month?
Many fans are ashamed by Alex Rodriquez. He let them down and his name will be forever linked to steroid use and a career that will carry an asterisk in the minds of many. However, his use of steroids should not be the focus of fans and their disapproval of him. Fans should instead focus on why baseball had no mandatory steroid testing until 2004.
Alex Rodriguez was not guilty of any wrongdoing according to the rules and guidelines of Major League Baseball by using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in 2003. Baseball had no restrictions on the use of such drugs then. MLB did not make such drugs illegal until 2004.
How can we blame Alex Rodriguez for any wrongdoing when the league did not have penalties for such actions? We simply cannot. We could say the Rodriguez should have known better or such a start should have held himself to higher standards? But would Rodriguez have been such a star of the sport without his use of performance enhancing drugs?
The true blame in this whole steroid disaster lies within the league of baseball itself. Baseball turned its back on the knowledge of steroid use. They simply did not want to know that it existed. They did know that the use of steroids was rampant, but it was good for the sport. The memorable homerun chase between sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa sparked tremendous interest in the sport and increase viewer ship dramatically. Barry Bonds later crushing the homerun record set by McGwire again brought an increase in viewer ship to the sport. Baseball was gaining popularity and records were being destroyed. Why would the league have any interest in putting an end to this uprising of baseball?
Shortly after Barry Bonds broke the single season homerun record, the league needed to clean up its image. An image that would soon catch up with them. All other major sports had encountered drugs problems and took proper action to remedy the situation, but baseball knowingly allowed league wide use of performance enhancing drugs to continue. This had to end, but how?
The league needed a scapegoat and Barry Bonds was the perfect person. He was soon to be approaching the all time home run record held by Hank Aaron for decades. A record that was said to be unbreakable. Before Barry Bonds could break the record, the league had to make it known that he would do so unnaturally; that Barry Bonds would break the record with the help of performance enhancing drugs.
A perfect situation for baseball to cover up their problems. As more and more viewers once again turned on the television to follow Barry Bonds along his quest to break a record, the league made evident their belief that Bonds was a user of performance enhancing drugs. The league was not going to wait this one out. They made Bonds a scapegoat early on. He would not have a chance to approach the record without doubt and hatred on the minds of most fans. By 2004 Bonds was considered a user and disgrace to the sport by most fans and breaking the record would be tainted in the eyes of most viewers.
Bonds would go on to break the record, but few cared. His legacy was tainted and the league was successful in making Bonds their scapegoat. Steroid use was now out in the open and the league wanted most fans to think that it was limited to a few individuals. Namely, those big name homerun hitters. The league did not want to endure the disaster that might come from fans finding out that steroid use existed in every clubhouse, existed with both young players and veterans, pitchers and power hitters, and no name players.
The league was aware of this use from tests conducted in 2003. Managers knew, trainers knew and some even provided the drugs, teammates knew. This was no secret. But the league believed that they could keep tight lipped on this one and maybe baseball’s millions of fans would not find out. Secrets don’t stay that way for long.
Baseball as a whole is now tainted in the eyes of many. Rather than blame the league lax policy on the use of performance enhancing drugs, we find it easier to blame the players that used them. What is Alex Rodriguez guilty of? Nothing. He followed the rules, he played the game the same as most others from that time, he did not strive for an edge, he simply wanted and needed to keep up. Can you blame him? Making millions upon millions and fear of losing that if he did not perform at a level equal to or above those players surrounding him, Rodriguez had little choice. Pressure from others and pressure to perform pushed players down the path of steroid use.
Rodriguez had to keep up. If the league was not willing to step in and make significant changes to its drug use and testing policies, then the players had little choice but to stay with those that were known users.
The choice was to use or possibly lose your multi-million dollar contracts because you are incapable at performing at a level consistent with the league’s best, most of which were or are now known users.
So the next time that you hear a superstar player’s name make headlines regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs for days on end, think about who you should place the blame on. The failed system, or the player who simply followed the rules?