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What did the press know about PEDs and when did they know it?

Jan 9, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

syringe

There’s a great piece over at Grantland. In it Bryan Curtis tracks the history of the media’s awareness and investigation of steroids in baseball from the 1980s onward. How generalized but unreportable knowledge became actual news. It’s must-click, must-read stuff.

It’s great because the guys who were there — Rosenthal, Olney, Justice, others — talk about what the culture was at the time and the challenges they faced in convincing editors to let them run steroids stories. There’s this idea that float around PED stories today that the media ignored it all back in the 80s and 90s. I agree some did and some — as detailed in the story — even worked hard to beat back PED stories that emerged.  But overall I think that’s an unfair assessment of what went on.

Reporters knew and often wanted to write about steroids, but the culture and conventions of print journalism were and continue to be such that, unless you got multiple people going on the record, editors are going to kill your story. Whether that’s good or not is another conversation — I think it’s bad in many cases as gossip and muckraking have its place — but it’s not accurate to say that all or even most reporters turned a blind eye. They were limited by journalistic convention.

But I also think that the struggle it took for these guys to get these stories to print and the “I-Team,” big-time investigative reporting culture that eventually got this stuff to the surface is why the media is so messed up in the way they pass judgment on the Steroids Era now.

When a reporter is working hard to break something — when that one story becomes their only job for months on end, as deep-digging investigative work requires it to be — the story ends up assuming an outsized importance. It’s their whole life so it’s obviously huge to them, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the biggest thing on the planet. Or the most important thing in baseball. If you’re looking at only one thing, perspective is lost.

I feel like, because PEDs became — as Curtis deftly describes — THE BIG GET of the baseball media for a number of years, it managed to be taken as bigger than it is in terms of baseball impact by many in the media. It became the way a reporter could place his own personal stamp on baseball because, eventually, he knew that world very well and it became the media’s value proposition in baseball analysis to play up that side when people in the game would not. When the most important and most unique thing you have to say about Barry Bonds, for example, comes from the media’s reams of scoops and stories, the baseball realities of Barry Bonds — that he was nonetheless an amazing, amazing ballplayer — is lost to some degree and the PED side is oversold.

That’s just a theory, of course. And it’s obviously not a uniform one. On the one hand, someone like Selena Roberts can only see A-Rod as a PED-using awful person because she has spent years reporting and writing that story. On the other hand better reporters, like, say, Buster Olney, are able to put this stuff in perspective. But I do think it’s a case where many in the media are keen to latch on to the media’s most proprietary angle re: baseball and inflate its importance.

Anyway, take some time from your schedule today and read Curtis’ story. You won’t be sorry.

  1. snell27 - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    I’ve always found it amusing that the same baseball writers who, on a weekly basis, run unsourced, unverified rumors columns, suddenly fall back on the “we must have multiple verifications to run this story!” idea. Sports writers routinely ignore journalistic conventions when it suits them, and editors never seem to balk at the “X is a clubhouse cancer” or “Y is trade bait” stories that don’t meet those standards. Perhaps the next step in this self-examination is to talk to actual sports editors from the day, to see if they really were spiking these stories, and why the journalistic standards for sports reporting seem so flexible.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      It’s not them as much as their editors and publishers who are worried about lawsuits. Unnamed rumors are OK, put a name on it and no one lets them do anything.

      • billybawl - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        The Curtis article suggests also that beat writers have a different mission than the prototypical investigative reporter, but I think this could have been explored more. I assume that a beat writer — especially a young writer trying to build a career — would be reluctant to shine a light on a player’s unsavory behavior because s/he would lose access to that player and his teammates. There are exceptions and examples of writers willing to stick their necks out, but I think most beat writers would be wary of biting the hand that feeds them. It’s not an accident that the Bonds expose came from a former sports writer assigned to the investigative unit, and he had zero contact with players.

        I personally think media share responsibility for enabling the “steroids era”. But it’s complicated. Baseball beat writers do some things very, very well, but it may be unreasonable to expect them to initiate certain stories critical of the teams and players they cover. That said, I wish that when Boswell made his allegations about Canseco in the late 1980s, that some reporter had pursued the story with the vigor that Bob Woodward investigated Watergate.

  2. unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Excellent article by Curtis. Loved the Boston contributions – Bob Ryan plays the see-no-evil monkey & The Ever Loathsome Dan Shaugnessy is the speak-no-evil chimp.

    Shaugnessy also have no interest in “investigative journalism.” Yeah Dan, we could tell.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:45 AM

      I had the VERY same reaction. More ammo for the mock-eration of those two clowns.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:12 AM

        Thanks J-Ro. That nickname isn’t taken in baseball, is it?

        You really know how to butter up an infamous confirmation bias whore. ;)

      • Jason @ IIATMS - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:14 PM

        Not that I’m aware of. But hey, be that groundbreaker!

    • KR - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:54 AM

      Yes. I’m not totally sour on Ryan and can recognize some of his contributions, but I’m not sorry he retired. Less said about the Ever Loathsome Shaugnessy, the better.

      You know who’s a great Boston writer now? Alex Speier. Rob Bradford’s good too. WEEI, who knew?

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:58 AM

        Agreed on all.

        You know you wants to be Shaugnessy’s Dread Pirate Roberts so badly that he might dye his curly mop red? John Tomase.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:11 AM

        Shaugnessy to Tomase: I’ll most likely kill you tomorrow, but until then here are some hashtags to use when dealing with bloggers: #mom’sbasement #sabernerd

        Also John – never never pass up a clubhouse buffet. But always pass up the buffet seafood.

    • cur68 - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:20 AM

      These days I’m more bothered by the commentariat here than by the journalists. Back in the day, pre-internet, not knowing and having to take an investigator’s word for stuff was what one did. These days? That’s just lazy. Especially when some of the people telling you stuff are of the ilk of Shaugnessy. That’s not someone’s word you want to take at face value. The internet is a wonderful place for lay-research (yes, that means porn, too!), so there’s no need to swallow stuff hook, line, and sinker (Man. These off-colour internet porn jokes just write themselves, eh?).

      How people persist in conflating all steroids to PEDs is beyond me. How people fail to give amphetamines their due as a FAR more dangerous, ubiquitous, and effective PED is also beyond me. Both topics are simply researched and the language around them is also simple.

      Then there’s the whole “suspicion of PED use” that continues to dog Bagwell and Piazza and their contemporaries. Upon any kind of examination, where one takes the approach “what’s the evidence for this” and “how good is that evidence”, you quickly come to conclusion that there isn’t much in the way of credible evidence at all. Its just innuendo and lack of understanding.

      In short, there is NOTHING stopping the average person from easily verifying allegations made by print journalists. That so many fail to do so, is just mind boggling. I think they get distracted by all the porn.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:26 AM

        Cur – you raise many good points and ….

        Sorry, I got distracted. I have a miniature animal frot fetish and I just saw a hot video of a Shetland Pony rubbing against a Pygmy Goat.

        What were you saying?

      • dluxxx - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:32 AM

        You lost me at the first “porn.”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:21 PM

        I have a miniature animal frot fetish

        I’m scared to death to google that phrase and figure out what you are talking about.

      • cur68 - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        I were you church, I’d wash my ‘puter in bleach even for suggesting googling that.

      • unclemosesgreen - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        No problem – it’s an extremely specific subset of faunoiphilia.

  3. paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 8:49 AM

    Having not read the article yet….if breaking a steroid story and getting an editor to run if was such a big deal for such a long time….then why are these SAME media members acting like steroid use started in the 1990s when it comes to villainizing certain ball players and one generation while romanticizing prior generations that they KNOW where doing it as well?

    • chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM

      I assume you’re talking about Hall of Fame voting?

      The issue is that the players who they may have known were doping in the 80s are likely already in the Hall or off the ballot. There’s nothing they can do about those guys. The players of the 90s and early 2000s however are on the ballot and thus they can do something about that.

      It’s like this: your 70-year old father may have smoked when he was 18 and no one would have cared. However, if your 18 year old son took up smoking tomorrow, you would try to stop him because what you know now and what you feel now is different from what was known and felt all those years ago.

      • paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        I realize that….but if they are in it is because they voted for them even though they knew they were using….then, they decided, for some reason, they suddenly cared about steroid use. Why the change?

        And if they cite records being broken or steroids affecting offensive performance, then they are being delusional. If steroids affected performance, they ALWAYS affected performance, whether they were being reported on or not, whether records were being broken or not. More to the point, I guess, given what reporters KNEW but didn’t report, how did these guys not realize that when offensive production exploded in the 2nd half of 1993, that steroids likely were not the reason because steroids had been around already for a LONG time.

      • chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:00 AM

        The change was because the politics around the game changed. Steroids weren’t viewed as a big deal until they were and once they were (some) fans looked a players differently, reporters covered the game differently and voters evaluated players differently.

        I also think that while reporters knew that certain players were using, I don’t know that they really knew how deeply rooted it was until Canseco and Caminetti.

        As for records, there has always been a push from the older generation to protect the records that were set “back in the day” from being broken. Whether it was Maris getting an asterisk because he had more games to break Ruth’s record or Bonds getting one for PED use for breaking Maris’s.

    • grumpyoleman - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      Remember in 1970 when 36 year old Hank hit 73 home runs? yeah, me neither. Should have taken more greenies.

      • paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        Remember 1971, when a 37 yr old Hank had his career high in HRs? I don’t, but it still happened.

        There are many more factors that PEDs that affect HRs. Indeed, much research on the fact has been conducted. Guess what has caused changes in HR rates throughout MLB history more than anything else? Changes in the ball. Willful ignorance is nothing to be proud of.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:28 PM

        Remember in ’61 when Roger Maris increased his highest single season HR mark by 156%? That’s higher than Bonds btw.

      • grumpyoleman - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        How dare a 26 year Maris hit so many home runs in an expansion year with more games played in a season too. Clearly was juicing on something :(

  4. sfm073 - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:04 AM

    All I know is that steroids were a problem in the 80’s but we didn’t hear anything until the 2000’s. That’s nearly 20 years of abuse and now sportswriters want to act as moralist.

    • paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      Sports illustrated ran a multi-issue special feature on steroid/PED/drug use in sports, including baseball in 1969. Drug use started to be a big deal in the Olympics well before that….there is about a 0% chance that baseball players (and players in other sports) didn’t watch and listen and wonder what these drugs could do for them….they sure as hell didn’t wait 40 years to try it….and that is ignoring the fact that amphetamines were freely available in MLB locker rooms everywhere everyday starting at least in the 1960s.

      The weird thing about the Grantland story is the continued ignorance of pre-1988 steroids reporting in baseball and other sports. There were regular spring training reports about guys gaining a bunch of muscle during the offseason with strong suggestions of steroid use, and it was obvious if you read them now that they were doing everything they could to report the story without using the word steroids. Many reporters knew, they had to know. They were in the locker rooms, they could see guys change.

  5. paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:28 AM

    I still find it weird that there are stories in 2014 that mention creatine and androstenedione and they never mention that clinical studies of these products find little to no anabolic effect. In short, placebo groups gained muscle mass at the same rate as those getting the drug. They may make guys feel different during their workouts, but there aren’t actually any tangible benefits that result from them.

    If guys wanted to get bigger, they had to take real steroids, which by 1991 were illegal without a prescription, and you couldn’t get a prescription just because you wanted to get jacked up.

    • mikhelb - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      “I still find it weird that there are stories in 2014 that mention creatine and androstenedione and they never mention that clinical studies of these products find little to no anabolic effect.”

      Maybe because clinical studies found out that androstenedione has an anabolic effect because it promotes an increase in testosterone in the body. It is currently classified as an anabolic not because by itself is an anabolic, but because it promotes the production of a hormone that has anabolic effect. What they found out is that by itself it doesn’t help to gain body mass in the form of muscles (in a sport like baseball, bulging muscles are really of not use if you can have the same effect but without the body mass).

      Now, there are not “real” and “not real” steroids, there are some that are anabolic and some that are not anabolic, it doesn’t mean one is REAL and the other is not.

      I find it odd, that there are a lot of people who say that “steroids were not banned” and “were not illegal to use” on baseball, but as you said, they were illegal without a prescription, making them illegal to use per the rules of MLB (anything the FDA deems illegal or restricted was illegal to use).

      There were no suspensions, but then again, the cocaine trials of the mid 1980s took a hit on MLBs power… with Donald Fehr a huge contributor in the mindset of players doing whatever they wanted without risking being tested for steroids, or any other drug whatsoever.

  6. chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    “I think it’s bad in many cases as gossip and muckraking have its place”

    Ok, now I’m really confused. Aren’t you the same columnist who rips to shreds writers like Gomez, Madden, Chass and others for innuendo-based reporting about PED use among certain players? Or are you saying that gossip and muckraking have their place but the reporting of possible PED use is not it (which kind of defeats the purpose of the article as a whole)?

    The many sarcastic posts I’ve written in response to your columns aside, I do tend to like your work and believe you’re a good read – but this column seems to smack in the face of numerous other ones you’ve written.

    To the point of the article though – social media has been great in a number of ways, but one way it has sucked butt is in journalism standards. Everyone wants to be the first one to break a story on their twitter feed that they’re no longer concerned with getting the story right – they just want to get it out there.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 9, 2014 at 10:24 AM

      I think that if someone like Pedro Gomez is willing to withhold a vote from an otherwise worthy player based on his PED suspicions he should have the courage to run a report in which he says that player uses PEDs. He doesn’t, however. Too cowardly to report it, but willing to hold it against the player all the same.

      If Gomez were to go on ESPN and say that he spoke to sources who witnessed Bagwell, for example, take PEDs, I would accept that as ok. I wouldn’t necessarily believe it. I would want to hear all sides and test the power of his reporting the way any report about anything else is considered, but at least it would be the reporter putting his information on the line and out for public consumption.

      This business of “I know things but I can’t tell you and I’m not willing to actually offer it as a fact to the public” is weak crap.

      • chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:10 AM

        Craig,

        I wonder if in a similar position to Gomez if you would be willing to risk your career at NBC and possible legal action (like we’re seeing Pujols take against Jack Clark) to report something like that?

        Incidentally, speaking of Jack Clark – that’s almost exactly what he did and you tore him up for it. It’s what Madden and the NY Daily News guys you blast do when they write their articles quoting “Yankee sources” when it comes to Alex.

        I’m just, respectfully, saying that in this area you seem to lack consistency. You want gossip but when that gossip is about steroid use you call it irresponsible.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:33 AM

        It’s what Madden and the NY Daily News guys you blast do when they write their articles quoting “Yankee sources” when it comes to Alex.

        Not speaking for Craig, but I blast the NYDN because most of their articles about Arod are either lies, straight up wrong, or both. How many times did Bill Madden say that Arod would never wear a Yankee uniform again? That he wanted to commit insurance fraud? That the Yanks should commit insurance fraud?

        I wonder if in a similar position to Gomez if you would be willing to risk your career at NBC and possible legal action (like we’re seeing Pujols take against Jack Clark) to report something like that?

        Except Craig isn’t making any accusations unlike Gomez. Think of it this way, I think it’s Boswell who has stated he knows that there are already PED users in the HoF. However, he won’t name who it is (aka the children’s game, I know something you don’t know and I won’t tell you).

      • chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Church,

        No, Craig isn’t making any accusations, but he’s asking others to do it.

        As for the Madden stuff – gossip’s often wrong. You can’t with one hand say “we should have more gossip and muckraking” and then with the other pen a column where you mock the gossipers and muckrakers. It’s like saying “I’m not going to walk my dog for a month.” and then getting pissed at your dog for crapping on the living room floor.

      • chip56 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:45 AM

        Church,

        Boswell likely won’t name names because he doesn’t want to get sued. Unless you have evidence to back it up then reporting that a player did steroids based on witness testimony is a bad friggin idea.

      • paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:20 PM

        I think the whole, getting sued thing is over used. You can’t be sued for publishing something that you think is true and that you have reason to believe is true. It is actually okay to be wrong if it is an honest mistake and you did your best to find out the truth. The reason there are rarely slander or libel suits is because it is nearly impossible to prove that someone knows what they printed was false…and if the report is actually true, then filing suit is dangerous because you are essentially inviting greater scrutiny and giving someone a reason to dig deeper and look for other sources….or for them to put their sources on the stand.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:28 PM

        No, Craig isn’t making any accusations, but he’s asking others to do it.

        He’s not asking them to make baseless accusations. He’s saying that if they are going to make allusions to PED use, don’t half a$$ it, go full bore.

        As for the Madden stuff – gossip’s often wrong.

        Except that wasn’t gossip, he was printing it as if it were the truth. He also didn’t acknowledge he could be wrong, and was, and just kept doubling down on the stupidity.

        Boswell likely won’t name names because he doesn’t want to get sued. Unless you have evidence to back it up then reporting that a player did steroids based on witness testimony is a bad friggin idea.

        Short of it being someone like Musial, a modern day Galahad, he has almost no fear of getting convicted. It’s almost impossible for a celebrity/athlete to prove libel, never mind that in this case, or the Jack Clark/Pujols case, one has to prove a negative. By testifying, Pujols has to show he’s never taken steroids. How does one go about that?

      • mikhelb - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        Didn’t Pedro Gómez reported extensively on steroids a few years ago? not based on “suspicions” nor copy/pasting stories written by others like you do, but by interviewing people and doing field investigations. It is really easy to get ahold of Pedro, even you could talk with him, you just need to ask him and have a chat, maybe you’ll get clarification on what “troubles you” so much about those who criticize steroid use.

  7. ctony1216 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    As a college athlete and a journalist in the 1980s, I couldn’t even tell for sure which of my fellow teammates were juicing unless they told me specifically. It’s not an easy thing to prove. And if you were alleging steroid use, you had better be able to prove it. That’s why the Caminiti confession and Canseco’s book — along with the BALCO investigations — were so powerful.

    But the players who did steroids, they knew it was wrong. They tried to hide it. And the guys who got caught don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Here’s Mark McGwire’s view of his own steroid use:

    “It’s a mistake that I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said. “I have to deal with never, ever getting into the Hall of Fame. I totally understand and totally respect their opinion and I will never, ever push it. That is the way it’s going to be and I can live with that.

    “One of the hardest things I had to do this year was sit down with my 9- and 10-year-old boys and tell them what dad did. That was a really hard thing to do but I did it. They understood as much as a 9- or 10-year old could. It’s just something, if any ball player ever came up to me, run away from it. It’s not good. Run away from it.”

    link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130108/hall-of-fame-ballot-steroids-mark-mcgwire-barry-bonds-roger-clemens/#ixzz2puwUX1iO

    Today, some athletes are still juicing and getting away with it. Uncovering it and reporting it is still hard. And known cheaters still have no place in the Hall of Fame.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      And known cheaters still have no place in the Hall of Fame.

      There are many known cheaters, even admitted cheaters, already in the HoF.

      But the players who did steroids, they knew it was wrong. They tried to hide it.

      Well they were also breaking federal law. I wouldn’t exact flaunt that idea, regardless of the fact that it wasn’t against MLB rules at the time.

      • ctony1216 - Jan 9, 2014 at 11:50 AM

        No form of cheating comes close to steroid use. It’s exponentially worse than anything else – as a result of the results you get and the potential harm it causes. There may be other PEDs out there now that are more harmful, and if so, they should be banned too.

        The players who were juicing weren’t sharing that info because they were afraid of breaking the law. They were just embarrassed to admit it. Especially back then. They didn’t want their friends or family to know either. The only guys who knew, usually, were their dealers, and maybe one or two trusted friends.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        No form of cheating comes close to steroid use. It’s exponentially worse than anything else – as a result of the results you get and the potential harm it causes. There may be other PEDs out there now that are more harmful, and if so, they should be banned too.

        One giant [citation needed] here. You’re making a claim with zero evidence to back it up.

        The players who were juicing weren’t sharing that info because they were afraid of breaking the law. They were just embarrassed to admit it. Especially back then. They didn’t want their friends or family to know either. The only guys who knew, usually, were their dealers, and maybe one or two trusted friends.

        So you agree it wasn’t against MLB rules? And are you not going to respond about how admitted cheaters are already in the HoF?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        No, steroid use is not exponentially worse than anything else (and I am opposed to it). That is harm against an individual, whereas gambling is a harm against teams and the integrity of the process at large. That is a much bigger thing. Using steroids is bad, but it is not the worst infraction.

      • ctony1216 - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        Look, I don’t know what other forms of cheating you’re talking about. Stealing signs can be considered cheating or gamesmanship, that’s debatable.

        Steroids are far worse because not only does it affect the outcome of games, but it also affects the health and well-being of other players. When some players use steroids, other players are forced to decide to either risk their health and take steroids themselves, or possibly lose a roster spot, or lose out in salary. As a result, it affects every player at every level of the sport.

        It’s also corrupting, like gambling — it eats at the soul. See what Mark McGwire says about it — “run from it,” he says. But it’s hard to run from it if a guy like Melky Cabrera is turning into an MVP candidate because of it, and you’re struggling to win a roster spot.

        This isn’t fantasy baseball. This is about players’ lives — and their families, and their ability to have a family in the future. The guys who took steroids aren’t monsters, but they are not Hall of Famers either. They gave up on themselves — or gave in. That’s not something to be celebrated.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:35 PM

        Look, I don’t know what other forms of cheating you’re talking about. Stealing signs can be considered cheating or gamesmanship, that’s debatable.

        Come on man. Doctoring the baseball, spitballs, corked bats, etc. These are all expressly forbidden in MLB, and players have done this, some admitted doing, and never had an issue getting into the HoF (steroids, which by the way weren’t forbidden, but that’s another story).

        Amphetamines are far worse because not only does it affect the outcome of games, but it also affects the health and well-being of other players. When some players use amphetamines, other players are forced to decide to either risk their health and take amphetamines themselves, or possibly lose a roster spot, or lose out in salary. As a result, it affects every player at every level of the sport.

        I changed one word in this paragraph to another, and the point stands. Yet, again, that didn’t prevent people from A, using, and B, from being enshrined in the HoF.

        And btw, alcohol is far worse to a players health than steroids are. Tobacco too, but the league is at least doing something about that.

        It’s also corrupting, like gambling — it eats at the soul. See what Mark McGwire says about it — “run from it,” he says. But it’s hard to run from it if a guy like Melky Cabrera is turning into an MVP candidate because of it, and you’re struggling to win a roster spot.

        Melky Cabrera was never an MVP candidate, and the rest is just moralizing.

        This isn’t fantasy baseball. This is about players’ lives — and their families, and their ability to have a family in the future. The guys who took steroids aren’t monsters, but they are not Hall of Famers either. They gave up on themselves — or gave in. That’s not something to be celebrated.

        Know what’s worse than taking a substance to make you better at your job? Institutional Racism, but that didn’t keep Kuhn out of the HoF, or Ty Cobb (who also beat up a fan). Or how about harboring a pedophile like Tom Yawkey did (never mind his racism either). Or what about beating your wife like Bobby Cox did? Or doing cocaine like Paul Molitor? Or driving drunk like La Russa?

      • historiophiliac - Jan 9, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        I am not disagreeing with you, tony, except insofar as to say that steroids/PEDs are not the worst thing ever. I think it is serious and those guys should not be celebrated, but I think you’re being hyperbolic in saying it’s the worst. That’s all.

      • ctony1216 - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        It’s very difficult to judge players from decades past with today’s moral sensibilities. We hold Thomas Jefferson in high regard, despite the fact that he owned slaves. You want to kick Ty Cobb out of the Hall because he was a bigot? Might as well close the whole museum.

        Alcohol isn’t a performance enhancing substance, and alcoholism is a sickness many players have suffered from. Not sure why this is part of the conversation.

        Amphetamines don’t have nearly the same performance-enhancing ability as steroids. They don’t make you run faster, hit the ball farther, throw harder, or turn on a pitch faster. In fact, for some athletes, they hinder performance. And again, with amphetamines, you’re comparing yesterday’s players with today’s moral sensibilities.

        During the 1980s and ’90s, there was no moral ambiguity about steroids. Guys who took steroids knew they were cheating. That’s why they hid it. I saw college athletes snort coke and smoke pot in the open, but they would never be caught publicly with steroids. It would be like admitting they bought their talent in a bottle. Not likely.

        The argument that other guys might have done “worse” things in years past and they’re in the Hall, so steroid users should be allowed in too, removes any sense of responsibility from today’s players. If there’s going to be a Hall — and maybe there shouldn’t be, who knows — you can only make judgments on the choices players are making today.

        Maybe it’s wrong to say that steroids are exponentially worse than other forms of cheating, because it understates the adverse effects of amphetamines, game-fixing, etc. But I’ll bet that some 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic or at some U.S. high school is probably being told that he can boost his power numbers and attract major league scouts if he’ll just start a PED program. And that’s where I see one of the biggest dangers of steroid use.

      • mikhelb - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:15 PM

        “it wasn’t against MLB rules at the time”

        You need to read what the rules were back then, and you’ll see it was against the rules to take anything that was deemed illegal and/or controlled by the FDA.

    • paperlions - Jan 9, 2014 at 12:29 PM

      That is incorrect. Amphetamines are far more dangerous that anabolic steroids. The side-effects are health problems can be immediate and lethal or chronic and long-term. Athletes drop dead of heart attacks every year after taking amphetamines (or other forms of speed), no one drops dead from steroid use. Indeed, reasonable and regular steroid use has no identified serious long-term effects….all effects are short-term and temporary.

      In addition, there is far more evidence both in the data and the anecdotes of players that amphetamines affected performance more than steroids. In addition, amphetamines required no effort in order to gain a benefit…pop a pill and viola, instant energy and focus. For steroids to have any effect at all, one most work out regularly and strenuously.

      Here is an interview with a medical researcher on various PEDs:

      http://www.amazinavenue.com/2013/8/6/4582488/steroid-expert-peds-anabolic-hgh-charles-yesalis

      • mikhelb - Jan 9, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        Yup, Hank Aaron expressed what he felt like when he took amphetamines in his biography, but it seems like lots of people don’t read anymore or don’t care about the experiences of others if it goes against what they believe.

  8. elmo - Jan 9, 2014 at 3:45 PM

    I think billybawl’s point above about beat writers vs investigative journalists is a good one. Shaughnessy explicity denying that he is interested in investigative reporting was the most enlightening part of the article for me. It underlines what is pretty obvious but is seldom explicitly stated: the two are not necessarily the same. Beat writers are perfectly willing to pester a player with tough questions about, say, a bad game play. But that has more to do with generating a quote or a headline and selling papers (or page hits) and less to do with doggedly ferreting out uncomfortable, morally complex truths and presenting them for public discussion. Are sportswriters journalists, or are they public relations specialists and entertainers? Apparently, it depends.

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