Written by Daniel Paulling
Published: 08 June 2007
The players’ union and Major League Baseball are trying to get together on a more stringent testing plan for steroids. Even if a stronger, less lenient plan comes to fruition, that doesn’t mean it will be for the best. Players will still be able to use steroids and will most likely use more and more dangerous forms of them. To be able to rid the game entirely of steroids is ludicrous.
“It’s absolutely a pipe dream,” said Dr. Gary Wadler, a professor at New York University. “The best you can ever hope for is to decrease the incidence, hopefully in a meaningful way.”
Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said that the current testing program is “somewhere between a joke and a sham. They pretend that the only problem is steroids. It’s not. There’s human growth hormone and the uppers and downers they take through the season. And they have a completely ludicrous set of sanctions.”
A player is considered to be taking steroids if he exceeds a ratio of six to one with epitestosterone, something that is found in everyone’s body. The natural ratio is one to one or sometimes two to one. Therefore drug abusers can raise the level to five to one and still not get caught. For a more stringent testing plan, the ratio should be brought down to four to one, which would severely limit the use of steroids. But there is nothing like that in place as of yet, so a ratio of five to one will allow a player to continue playing because he wouldn’t have tested positive.
A player can also use human growth hormone (HGH) or other stimulants to help him cheat, but it wouldn’t be caught by the testing procedure. Baseball would need to adopt a guideline that would increase the list of banned substances to be tested for. Also, players can take steroids called “designer steroids,” which are steroids that aren’t detectable yet. Anti-doping experts say they need 50 to 100 million dollars to be able to keep up with these new types of steroids. Without this money they are nearly completely helpless against new waves of steroids.
There is also something forthcoming in the very near future: genetic engineering. In this procedure players can alter their genetics to allow them to build muscle mass much more easily. This will probably be rather dangerous procedure but for a few million extra on a contract who wouldn’t be willing to give it a try.
The biggest thing that baseball needs to do right now is to adopt a more stringent plan. Something that would increase the list of banned substances to things other than steroids. Secondly, baseball needs to turn the testing program over to an independent agency.
“It’s way over their heads,” Dr. Wadler said. “They ought to get it out of house. Or it’s going to take them down in the long run, like it almost did to the Olympics.”
Then baseball needs to become a public supporter of anti-doping agencies by donating money to these programs to fund their future of ending all types of steroid abuse. And lastly, MLB needs a more stringent punishment scale. First offense, player’s name goes public. Second offense, suspended 1/3 of a year without pay. Third offense, suspended 2/3 of a year without pay. Fourth offense, done forever.
Good luck, Mr. Selig. Let’s get our national pastime cleaned up.