With the establishment of The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in 2000, Major League Baseball was about to initiate one of the biggest crackdowns on players using performance enhancing drugs (PED) in the history of sports. In fact, Sports Illustrated magazine refers to the decade of the 2000s as being defined by one major sports related story: the widespread use of PED’s by professional baseball players.
As time has progressed, the suspensions have become more and more severe. The message that Major League Baseball is sending is clear: the use of PED is something that will absolutely not be condoned.
Use of PED in Major League Baseball
As with all major league sports, MLB has had its fair share of doping related scandals. The use of performance enhancing drugs (PED) by players goes a long way back but strict rules and regulations have been put in place to discourage their use. While strict rules existed for the use of controlled substances (such as steroids) since 1991, the early 2000’s marked a tougher clampdown with respect to PEDs.
After increased findings of PED use, a new drug policy was announced by Major League Baseball in 2004. This was initiated following the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) investigation carried out a year earlier in which BALCO had been accused of both developing and supplying athletes with hard-to-detect PEDs.
Under this new policy testing could be carried out randomly and even during the offseason. If a player was found to be using any PED, the punishments were as follows:
- For first time offenders, 10 day suspension
- For second time offenders, 30 day suspension
- For third time offenders, 60 day suspensions
- For fourth time offenders, a one year suspension
Each of these suspensions was without pay and was introduced as a serious effort to eradicate PED usage in professional baseball.
In 2005, after mounting pressure from the U.S. Congress, the penalties were increased to a 50 games ban for first time offenders; 100 games ban for second time offenders, and a lifetime ban for third time offenders.
As of 2014, those penalties have increased even further. Today it is an 80 games ban for first time offenders; 162 games ban for second time offenders; and a lifetime ban for third time offenders. Players are also barred from participating in the post-season of that year irrespective of whether they’ve completed their ban or not.
The Implications of PED usage
For players, being caught using PEDs is a huge setback to their careers. If found using PEDs, all that the player has ever worked for, goes down the drain. It forces you to have to sit out a whole season or more and have to deal with a lifetime of shame.
Not only does using PED tarnish an athlete’s career on the pitch, it makes it virtually impossible for them to receive any positive recognition for their achievements, such as being inducted into the hall of fame.
MLB Players Suspended over PED Usage
Listed below are some of the notable players who have been suspended for using PED since 2000.
Giambi is one of the few players who have actually admitted to taking PEDs over the course of his career from 1995 to 2014. His name was mentioned in both the BALCO investigation as well as the Mitchell Report. It is suspected that when he was diagnosed with a benign tumor in 2004, it was likely linked to his sustained steroid usage.
Canseco, despite being one of the top sluggers in MLB, admitted to using steroids himself as well as injecting other players with them. In his tell-all, he names players such as Juan Gonzalez, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, and Ivan Rodriguez as players who received PED shots from him.
Perhaps the most current and well covered case of doping came in the form of A-Rod. The New York Yankee, despite having made a solid name for himself and with his Hall of Fame worthy statistics was not immune to the lure of using PEDs. Due to his sustained use of illegal drugs, it is unlikely that he will ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
After spending 20 years playing in the big leagues, Brown’s career was brought to an end in 2005 when he was linked to Radomski, a known supplier of the human growth hormone.
Clemens was named in the Mitchell Report as having been one of the players to be using PEDs. It was stated that his conditioning coach Brian McNaemee had injected him with PEDs several times when he played for both the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees. Although Clemens denies ever taking steroids, he was indicted in 2010 for making false statements concerning his PED usage, perjury, and obstruction of Congress.
Grimsley was suspended after he violated the MLB performance enhancing drug policy in 2006. He has admitted to using steroids and HGH (human growth hormone). He was also linked to Radomski who sold him these PEDs on several occasions.
Seen as a sure shot candidate to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, Palmeiro destroyed his entire career when he tested positive for PEDs. He was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report for suspected PED usage. While he vehemently denies ever using steroids or performance enhancers of any kind, Palmeiro was still ultimately brought down by this scandal.
In 2009, Tejada pleaded guilty on a charge of perjury for lying to Congress in his testimony about whether fellow player Rafael Palmeiro lied about his own use of steroids. In 2013, Tejada himself tested positive for PEDs and received a 105 game suspension for violation of the MLB drug policy. This was the third longest non-lifetime suspension to ever be handed out to an MLB player for testing positive to drug usage.