Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox

Monday, December 24, 2012

PED Usage Should Prohibit Known Cheaters From Baseball Hall of Fame

This year's Hall of Fame ballot is littered with the names of first-time eligible players who have, rather infamously, been associated with steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) and, in some instances, even been implicated in their use. For example, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are all on this year's ballot.

Bonds' and Clemens' names were all over the Mitchell Report. In fact, Bonds was mentioned a whopping 103 times (second to Jose Canseco, at 105 mentions) and Clemens was mentioned 82 times.

I've previously detailed the case against Clemens and there is ample evidence to prove that he was a cheater who used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

As for Bonds, there is equally compelling evidence against him.

Unsealed court documents show that Bonds tested positive for three types of steroids, and his personal trainer once told his business manager in the San Francisco Giants' clubhouse how he injected the slugger with performance-enhancing drugs "all over the place."

The documents reveal a secretly tape-recorded a 2003 conversation between Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson and Steve Hoskins, Bonds' childhood friend and personal assistant, in the Giants' clubhouse. Anderson and Hoskins were discussing steroid injections when Anderson stated that he moved Bonds injections "all over the place" in order to avoid complications.

During that conversation, Anderson also told Hoskins that "everything that I've been doing at this point, it's all undetectable," according to the documents. "See, the stuff that I have ... we created it. And you can't, you can't buy it anywhere. You can't get it anywhere else."

Also among the evidence made public were doping calendars used by Anderson with the initials "BB" and a handwritten note seized from his house labeled "Barry" that appears to be a laundry list of steroids and planned blood tests.

Bonds use of HGH was so prevalent that his head and feet actually grew during his time with the San Francisco Giants — while he was in his 30s. Bonds' statistics also took off in that period. In unprecedented fashion, Bonds became an extraordinary player in his late 30s and early 40's, well past the prime of all other historic players, a time when all others are in decline.

Sosa, who hit 609 career homers, was one of 104 players who tested positive for a PED in 2003. Beyond that, a cursory look at his career numbers reveals a one-dimensional hitter who does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Rafael Palmeiro is on the ballot for the third time. In 2005, Palmeiro famously wagged his finger at Congress and intoned that, despite Jose Canseco's published claims, he had never used steroids. Less than five months later, however, he was suspended after test results showed presence of a steroid in his urine.

Mark McGwire is on the ballot for the seventh time. In January of 2010, McGwire finally admitted that he used performance-enhancing drugs (including steroids and human growth hormone) off and on for nearly a decade. That sealed his fate, as far as the Hall of Fame is concerned.

McGwire is the test case for all of the other PED users on this year's ballot, and in the years to come. The slugger has never received more than 23.7 percent of the vote, while 75 percent is needed for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

To his credit, McGwire said he wouldn't vote for himself for the Hall of Fame and also said that he doesn't expect to ever get into the Hall. He has continually shown more humility and honesty than any of the other players listed above. Yet, it's still not enough. If "good guy" McGwire is excluded, so are Bonds, Clemens and Sosa.

Some people mistakenly argue that steroids weren't banned in baseball until 2003 and, therefore, players who used them prior to that time should be excused and granted consideration for the Hall of Fame, provided that their career numbers warrant it.

The truth is, the use of steroids for performance enhancement has been implicitly banned by baseball since 1971 and expressly banned since '91.

Beginning in 1971 and continuing today, Major League Baseball's drug policy has prohibited the use of any prescription medication without a valid prescription.

Baseball's first written drug policy was issued by commissioner Bowie Kuhn at the start of the '71 season. The policy did not explicitly address anabolic steroids, but it did say that baseball personnel must "comply with federal and state drug laws." Federal law at the time mandated that an appropriate prescription be obtained for the use of anabolic steroids.

In 1991, Commissioner Fay Vincent first expressly included steroids in baseball's drug policy. Steroids have been listed as a prohibited substance under the Major League Baseball drug policy since that time.

The following is excerpted from Commissioner Vincent's memo on June 7, 1991, which spelled out a broader drug policy and directly prohibited the use of steroids without a valid prescription. Each team and the players' union received the memo.

"This memorandum sets forth Baseball's drug policy... The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids or prescription drugs for which the individual in possession of the drug does not have a prescription."

Absent a prescription, steroids and human growth hormone have always been illegal under U.S. law. Even if Major League Baseball hadn't expressly forbidden their use — which it clearly did — those drugs would still be legally forbidden.

Cheaters shouldn't be rewarded for cheating. Putting any of the above players in the Hall of Fame would set a horrible precedent. It would be a disgrace that would irreparably damage the integrity of the game. Cheating should never be condoned or overlooked.

Clemens and Bonds each had exemplary careers before they began their PED usage. But they are both cheaters nonetheless. Both achieved freakish results late in their careers, when all of their peers and predecessor were in decline. Neither player, both of whom were remarkably competitive, could accept a decline in performance and they wouldn't tolerate being second best.

Character and integrity are explicitly listed as criteria when measuring Hall of Fame merit, and neither player had them.

Voting for the Hall of Fame is being conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). The results will be announced on January 9, 2013.

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