Major League Baseball has suffered a lot of distress this year from all the controversy surrounding steroid use. Players, both retired and active, confronted Congress this past spring about the use of performance enhancing drugs. Orioles’ first baseman Rafael Palmeiro testified he never took steroids, only to fail the drug test several months later.

Palmeiro joined the ranks of Hank Aaron and Willie Mays in the 3,000 hit club by getting his 3,000th and 3,001st hits on July 15th in a game against the Seattle Mariners.

This makes one ponder the question that arises – should Palmeiro’s landmark statistic place in the hall of fame or is it too tainted to be considered legitimate? The obviously larger issue is whether players convicted of using illegal performance enhancing drugs are eligible to be inducted into the hall of fame?

Ken Caminiti, the 1996 National League Most Valuable Player, admitted to steroid abuse two years ago during his MVP season. This surely taints his record. I cannot help but wonder why he still holds his 1996 award.

In addition, several star players – possible future hall of fame inductees – fall suspect to steroid use. Yankees all-stars Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi also admitted to taking steroids after repeatedly denying the use of illegal supplements.

Home-run sluggers Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds have also taken a lot of heat about steroid use. All four players said that they have taken supplements without knowing that those supplements were steroids.

If players are guilty of steroid crimes, MLB should ban them from inducting into the hall of fame. Why should players who have taken supplements to improve their game be able to join the likes of Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth, who have not been convicted of steroid abuse?

Hard work and dedication without illegal assistance that brings success should be recognized – success that arises from an unfair advantage should be rejected. For example, a person who jumps higher with a trampoline should not assume the record of the highest jump made by a person who did not have such a device.

Opponents of my view say that this leads to discarding tarnished players’ records. Although some players may have taken steroids, they may still have worked hard to strengthen their skills most of the time in a fair manner.

Another argument opponents use is that using steroids is just like other abusive methods employed by players in the past. New York Times sports columnist William Rhoden says, “In every generation, [MLB players] were doing something to get a shortcut.” Rhoden implies that the shortcuts used by past generations are different from that of this generation by being able to avoid adverse consequences.

This argument, however, does not solve the problems of having a fair playing ground for all athletes. Although Bud Selig’s new steroid use policy issued early this year is a step towards the right direction, we still need stricter rules in order to maintain the integrity of the MLB. Harsher rules such as discarding a player’s record after his conviction would send a potent message out to all baseball players to follow the rules.

The fans deserve better. Their idols, even those who are not being suspected of steroid abuse, should play the game without help from external sources.

Whether players unintentionally took illegal supplements or not, they must still be punished by the disqualification of their records. This would cause players to screen whatever they are taking. Then players who violate the drug policy would have no reason to explain that they received steroids unintentionally.

For once, I would like to hear Palmeiro say, “I have used steroids in the past. Period.”

Lee can be reached at alee@campustimes.org.



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