Guest posted by Chris Nelson (KU student) for my class “Ethics & Media”:

The idea of this “steroid era” really started back in 1998 when Mark McGwireand Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris‘ home run record of 61 in a single season, a record that was established in 1961. Everyone suspected that the sluggers, especially McGwire, were on something, but no one cared. The two men eventually chased down the record and continued to demolish it when McGwire hit number 70 on the last day of the season (Sosa ended with 66). Then along came Barry Bonds and his revamped body. In the early to mid ’90s, Bonds was a lean base stealer who could also hit for power. After the 1998 season, it seemed that Bonds was jealous of the homer hype. This is when most suspect he started using. Bonds would end up breaking McGwire’s record in 2001 with a total of 73 home runs. I know that records are made to be broken, but how does a near 40-year-old record get broken twice in the span of 3 years?

In 2003, Major League Baseball (MLB) administered an “anonymous” test of all players in order to get a feel for how big a problem steroids really was. Nearly 14% (104 players) of the tests came back positive. The team owners and the players’ union both agreed to keep the names on the list confidential, and a federal court ordered the list sealed. However, when the list was seized by federal investigators, news leaked about Alex Rodriguezbeing one of the positive tests.

“A-Rod” is a 3-time MVP and a perennial All-Star. Oh, and he makes more than $25 million a year. A-Rod has come clean to the public and admitted he was using “something” for three years, 2001-03, but he didn’t really know what he was taking. He said he began using when he felt pressure from his newly signed 10-year, $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers. Thatstatement begs the question, if he was under enough pressure in Dallas to take steroids, what did he feel when he got traded to the New York Yankees at the end of the 2003 season?

It’s hard to believe that he would stop taking these substances right before he stepped on the extremely bright stage that is the Bronx.

  • Does his admission do anything for you as a baseball fan or even a regular citizen?
  • Is the “pressure” excuse good enough for you, and why do you think it was good enough for him to start taking these substances?
  • Do you think his teammates look differently at him? In the end they are all competing for that next contract and that next payday; can they respect him after he gave himself an unfair advantage over the rest?


Originally posted February 23, 2009 at PolicyByBlog

Original Comments Here

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    Original Reader Comments (30)

    I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I do enjoy attending occasional games and watching the World Series, even despite all the steroid controversy. It was evident after the scandal began, that a large number of players were using performance enhancing drugs. Did this bother me? No, not really. What bothers me most is constantly hearing about it on the news, but since today’s news consumers are infatuated with controversy, it’s hard to get away from. I think there are hundreds of more important issues the media could be reporting on. In regards to the A-Rod scandal, I wasn’t surprised and honestly don’t care. In the words of Alex, “it was a loosey goosey era” and everyone was doing it, and because of this, one could say it was a pretty even playing field. The pressure excuse could have some truth, but A-Rod knew what he was doing, and is now paying for it, or is he?
    What upsets me is that kids that look up to him and may follow his example. I also think that if I were a teammate, I would be upset, but still support him. The MLB needs to test more, and kick players out of the league that use in the future. Leave the past alone and implement a new rule. Lance Armstrong, once the most tested athlete in sports, used to be tested almost everyday, and random at that. I heard stories of how he would even be tested while vacationing with his family. The MLB needs to put its foot down and strictly enforce this issue. I hate to say this would fix the problem, but I’m sure it could help. If there’s a will there’s a way. Its kind of a double edged sword though, sure this problem could be stopped with stricter testing and punishments by the MLB, but at the same time, if players really feel they need to use steroids, than new ways can be developed to do so without detection. This is an ethical battle that the players will have to fight with their own conscious.
    February 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjthought87

    I think the “pressure excuse” is one that should not be taken lightly or accepted. Couldn’t any ahtlete conform to the pressure and still get away with it then? By using the “pressure” excuse he is trying to justify the unexcusable action not the problem. The problem is he screwed up and therefore I believe he should be punished for it. The ends of this decision to not justify the means.

    The sad thing is that I am sure his teammates look at him differently, but they may be thinking “I hope I don’t get caught” which may or may not be an even worse ethical decision.

    I am a Red Sox fan so it is easy to criticize a Yankee but the issue goes far beyond basefall following and fan base, he is in the public eye and he made a bad decision. I do not think that decision should be glorified for any reason.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterte6506

    As a professional athlete, and one of the most well-known at that, Alex Rodriguez has a responsibility to his fans, especially the younger ones, to keep a clean image. He is a big boy, and cannot blame his ignorance on others. He knew he should not be taking the substances, but instead of saying something, he turned a blind eye. If he did that, he could take the steroids, improve his game and blame someone else when he got caught-which he did.

    As for his teammates, I doubt they care. It does seem a bit of a shame that one of the highest paid athletes was taking performance enhancing drugs, but it’s pretty prevalent in baseball.Baseball is my least favorite sport, and honestly I could care less who is doing steroids and who isn’t. When you see how strong guys like A-Rod and Barry Bonds are, it seems to be a no-brainer that they were taking something to help.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDover

    We talked about professional ethics in class. While A-Rod may not have directly signed up to be a role model, his sponsorships and other endorsements make him one. As a baseball fan it saddens me to know that it’s not pure athleticism anymore. The use of enhancing drugs takes away from the amazement in their skill. I don’t think that pressure as an excuse is good enough. Although I’m sure the pressure is extreme, as athletes that dance on the public stage they still need to hold on to their morals and values. As a big payed player others players probably hold some well-deserved animosity toward him. While some of them are showing their true skill at the sport, others are tainting the reputation of the entire sport because of their drug use.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermegs527

    In reality, I dont really care that players such as A-Rod and Roger Clemens use steriods to help their game. I think it makes the game more exciting when players perform better. I have never really been a huge baseball fan, so that many affect how I feel about the situation. Furthermore, A-Rod admitting openly that he used drugs during his time with the Rangers is better than having the public find out on their own. Taking responsibily for his actions is the first step of many in gaining back the respect he used to have. I believe the pressure excuse for using the drugs is a bunch of B.S. A-Rod knew what he was taking and wanted to experiment with a drug that may improve his game. There have been many great players in the past that were under a lot of pressure and they never needed drugs. Moreover, that excuse is lame and he should admit that he knew what he was taking and tell people the real reason for taking the drugs. Im not sure how his teammates feel now that they know he took the drugs. Im sure they are over it since this whole steriod thing has been going on for such a long time. His teammates may have lost a little respect, which A-Rod will have to gain back. I do believe A-Rod is a good person with good intentions and will eventually gain the respect of his fans, the media and his teammates back.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdaslonka

    I understand that being in the public spotlight adds a lot of pressure to any situation, but aren’t we all under a lot of pressure? People make decisions when faced with an ethical dilemma everyday. Many result in good choices, but many also result in unethical decisions–and usually we here about the high-profile decision makers.

    Many of these professional athletes do not feel that they are role models, but guess what, they are! A-Rod became a role model when he signed his first multi-million dollar contract, whether he asked for it or not. So, in short, I do not feel that these the pressure excuse is good enough. However, I do feel that it will work for him.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWMJ220

    As a baseball fan, I am quite upset to know so many players are using steroids. This article brings up a good point…The homerun record hadn’t been broken in 40 years. How was it suddenly broken multiple times? It’s obvious that the players were using enhancers. I definitely think steroids should be illegal. Either that or erase all of the old records and start new ones with all of the players being on steroids! NOT! Whatever happened to just purely being athletic?

    A-Rod obviously isn’t as good as he seems and I assume he is still on steroids since he has been playing well for the Yankees. I think fans are truly dissapointed. A-Rod is so popular and has so many endorsements. Is he still going to be one of the major athletes who young boys look up to?
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterK523

    It does not matter to me whether or not baseball players are using steroids. The use of steroids diminishes the game, however, by undercutting a person’s natural talents. Now, whenever a player really excels people will assume that “he’s probably on something.” The fact that A-Rod lied about taking steroids makes his apology much less sincere and believable. The “pressure” excuse is dumb, he wanted to excel as a player and he most likely saw that the best in the league were using something to make themselves better. Perhaps the salaries of players who use steroids should be docked if everyone is so enraged with the rampant use of them.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersenior.09

    First, I want to say that the writer of this post made a lot of good points. His admission did not do a whole lot for me. When I watched his interview with Peter Gammons of ESPN, A-Rod seemed to be somewhat facetious. And in no way was he remorseful. Also, the fact that he used pressure as an excuse simply shows how weak of a person he is. When the tough gets going and the pressure starts mounting, that is when the real heroes step to the plate (pardon the pun), but not A-Rod. The first thing he did was look for the easy way out. Lastly, I don’t know that the opinions his teammates have towards him have changed all that much since the admission. It is no big secret around baseball that A-Rod is not the best teammate. So basically, I think they all still hate him.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersunshine

    Although I definitely think that substance abuse in professional sports should be illegal and drug testing should in fact be used, the drug test was administered under false pretenses in that it was not confidential. In addition, since 14% were positive for drugs, either all of the players that used should have been exposed or none of them.

    The apology that I saw was hardly sincere and at this point the admission almost seems like a publicity stunt.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDuke44

    This steriod thing is old news. I mean what percentage of professional athletes don’t use steriods or some kind of muscle/body enhancer? Or even drugs? Professional sports are entertainment and people pay to see superhumans do amazing things.
    So, no A-Rod admitting to using does nothing for me. He is “the best” baseball player of our time, it kind of only makes sense that he used muscle potion to live up to the hype.
    The pressure to perform isn’t a good excuse but it is an excuse and that is all that somebody needs to justify their actions.
    As for his teammates, it’s probably 50/50. I’m sure that some feel like he cheated and i’m sure some just don’t give a fudge. Get over it, it’s in the past. Like I get it.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfabi.f.babi

    I guess I just miss the days when people who were succeeding were doing so because they were that much more talented and practiced than everyone else. While I’m sure even juiced up players have talent to begin with, they have raised the bar so high, it is now nearly impossible to reach by anyone who is not taking steroids. This same theory applies to many things our culture has messed up. Newspapers cannot take the time to fact check their stories because they are too concerned with beating out the competition. Young girls battle anorexia and bulemia because the models they see have set such outrageous standards for beauty. I’m not sure I have a solution for this problem, other than we need to get over our desire the be the very best at everything. As a non-baseball fan, I would say that I choose honest performance and talent over outstanding (juiced-up) performance. Although, I would not be surprised if the majority of baseball fans would prefer a great game over a clean one.
    February 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSongbomb21

    Taking steroids to break a record is no different than cheating. Cheating doesn’t earn or deserve respect. Is it worth it to break a record if you do not have the respect from your teammates, coaches and fans? Obviously, some athletes think it is worth it- which is sad.

    Also as a non-baseball fan, I would hope that his teammates are disappointed in A-Rod. This would show that the sport is lessening their tolerance of performance enhancing drugs and that the drugs aren’t supported by the baseball culture or community. I accept his admission but feel he isn’t telling the whole story- so why bother coming clean? Also, I agree- a strong person would have found a better, more moral way to dealing with the pressure.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKUkris1

    Pressure is probably one of the most common reasons why people take drugs. However, I don’t feel like it’s a valid excuse. Everyone is under pressure; his team mates, his coach, even the crowd. As a baseball fan I am not happy about the growing number of players who use steroids, but it makes me feel a little bit better that A-Rod admitted to using them. An admission free from blaming his steroid use on pressure or his trainer would have been better.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteraimsk09

    As a non-baseball fan, I could care less what any of the players do or don’t do. I think their job is to put on a good show for the audience and if injecting themselves with steroids increases the entertainment value of their performance, so be it. I do think the fact that the test results were supposed to be kept confidential and were leaked is inexcusible. Some may say, “but without the leak we wouldn’t know the truth”, but does knowing the truth about A-Rod really change anything? The only problem I have with the steroid use is the fact that new records are being broken right and left, and the new records lose some of the integrity that the old ones represented. If a record is easily broken with the help of a little drug, then is the record holder really that impressive? I think it goes to show how impressive the old record holders really were. Unless of course they too were taking somekind of enhancement drug…
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJayhawk411

    Hearing that a great athlete cheated to get where he or she is, is always disappointing. I think it’s fair to say any athlete will lose a lot of fans, respect, and future money, when they are caught, or admit to using steroids or anything like that. I cannot imagine the kind of pressure an athlete must feel, so I can’t be too hard on someone for admitting to doing something wrong when they were faced with pressure I’ve never even felt. However, I don’t think that pressure excuses someone from cheating like that. While true friends will always stay friends, I imagine most athlete’s colleagues are not too pleased to see that one of their fellow competitors has been cheating to get the edge. And I think it would be difficult to respect someone as an athlete after they’ve been caught, or admitted to cheating. That might call for a change in careers in my book.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdugarte

    In life I think many people do stupid things when they are under pressure. I am assuming that many people have cheated on a test, taken pills to stay up all night and write a paper, drunken themselves silly because they were afraid to face a situation, and smoked illegal substances to relax and have fun. I don’t think any of those things are are right, but many people do them. In baseball the players know it isn’t right to take steroids, but it doesn’t change the fact that many of them are using. I think the fact that the owners union and coaches were willing to seal the results and keep them private shows that they weren’t willing to stop using their players because of it. I do think it is unjust to other players who are following the rules, but what it comes down to is who played better in the game. Although one player might have been cheating by taking drugs, he still performed better. I’m not saying that is right, but it is just how the life works until you are caught.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersugar086

    Admission to this situation was absolutely required as there was nothing he could do to deny it. As a baseball fan it does not really bother me that much because steroids were running rampant during that time and it was no surprise that A-Rod, among other players were taking them. There are probably still some players today that are working the system and finding ways to get around it and still take steroids. It is just something that happens in sports. “Pressure” is a weak excuse but I feel that at the time, players were taking steroids just to remain competitive. I guess I don’t know what I would consider a good excuse or reasoning for the situation though. As far as respect goes from other players, it would just depend on the player and what their personal beliefs are.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbuster

    I believe that A-Rod made a detrimental mistake for his career. Regardless of if he still does it, he will forever be linked in with other cheaters. Despite it not being illegal in baseball, it was still illegal to obtain and us in the United States and even in the Dominican Republic where he supposedly got it. I understand the pressure to preform however, I feel that having integrity as a player is much more important than putting up the stats. With the admission, it has completely changed my view of A-Rod as a player. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t the only one, he still made the choice to take performance enhancing drugs. Other players will now look at him differently along with having some resentment towards him, he gets paid the most out of any player but also cheated. It doesn’t send the best message to anyone observing baseball. If this report had not been published, then I hardly believe A-Rod would have come out and told people he took the drugs. In fact, he lied about it in a previous interview done a few years ago. My opinion of him as a player has greatly diminished and I know that I am not the only one.
    However, I do feel that it was unfair for the report to release only A-Rod’s test results and not the other 103 players who also tested positive. Even though he is a high profile player, the other players still need to be published to the public if it hasn’t already been done. I do not have sympathy for A-Rod. I am an athlete myself having played in competitive sports all my life and the dangers of using performance enhancing drugs has always been prevalent and I knew not to do them. A player knows the dangers of taking these drugs and knows the consequences and therefore knew the ethical dilemma.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergretzky99

    A-Rod was right in coming out and admitting guilt the way he did. Not only does it help his appearance in the public eye, but will help his career. Steroid cases that linger on and on because the suspect will not admit guilt tend get very messy. The player ends up losing credibility and his career accomplishments are more or less forgotten. A-Rod certainly made a mistake, but he handled this situation probably the best way it could have been handled. In the end, because he admitted guilt, A-Rod will get more respect than those who continuously denied using illegal substances even though both parties cheated.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwachashi

    This is a tough case. On one note, they probably should have never ordered the results sealed, however the players would not have taken the tests if they hadn’t been. I think as part of being a professional athlete, drug tests should be part of your responsibility. It’s against the league rules to use performance enhancers, not to mention the unfair advantage it gives you to breaking records of legends who obtained those records through hard work, not medicine. His confession means nothing to me. He broke a rule, he cheated, I don’t think he deserves any sort of forgiveness or acceptance for this mistake. He knew it was wrong, he knew what he was doing…he didn’t care. The only reason he or any other player cares now is because they got caught. Too little too late. Give me a break with the “pressure” excuse. Everyone in this world has some kind of pressure on them everyday, he isn’t special. And his teammates should look at him differently. Personally I would be pretty upset if a teammate of mine was considered one of the best and was paid 2x more than me and then come to find out, he really wasn’t THAT much better. He’s a fraud, as are the rest of professional athletes that enhance their performance with these drugs in order to be on top and rake in more money, unfairly.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterinot1987

    It seems more unethical for MLB to turn their head on such a big problem than the fact that A-Rod took steroids when they technically weren’t even illegal. I feel like this whole situation is unethical in so many instances. The way that A-Rod is dealing with the media is very contradicting. I think that if he has to deal with this, then the other 100 some-odd players should also be in the same situation. The MLB got into this and it is their job to fix the problem.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLMP316

    His admission doesn’t really altar my opinion of baseball at all. There are so many players out there that have taken or will take steroids in the future that I don’t really care. It won’t stop until someone croaks. Only then will it slowly diminish. If I was a player and I was getting 25 million a year to take steroids…ummm… I don’t think I could resist . I’m sure that his players knew about this back in 2003. It would be pretty obvious for a teammate to realize if you’ve been physically enhanced. I think his past and present teammates respect him more for coming out and admitting his guilt.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMikeJohn1013

    Although steriods in baseball caused quite a controversy during those years, I do not think that it was the first time any players used steriods. And I do think his public apology is not something he can say was not his fault, he tried to spin it and said it was pressure well I don’t think that is good enough. It isn’t fair that he is taking drugs to be a better player while some of his teammates may not look as good as him because they are not substance enhanced. However, I do think that because he told the truth and made it a point to own up to his wrong doings does show character. Some players may not have felt they needed to come out and talk about their use of illegal substances but they are in the public eye and they are considered role models;therefore they probably thought it was in the best interest of their fans to not know they were cheating.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbosco

    The biggest disappointment in this situation is not finding out that A-Rod took steroids, it’s finding out that he had a little help becoming the best. Yes, it’s unfair that he takes all the blame while many of the other players are escaping the media but A-Rod also took all the media praise. I think that A-Rod admitting his usage even though it wasn’t right away gives him some credit but he probably would have received even more credit if it was handled the minute the news was released.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCiaoBella

    There are many moral issues within A Rod’s story. First, was it ethical of the media to release this story although the tests were supposed to be anonymous? Absolutely. What A Rod was doing himself was unethical in itself. He was cheating to succeed and the public needed to know.

    And the pressure excuse is no excuse. There is never an excuse for cheating and despite the pressures of the industry or of his trainers and coaches, what A Rod did was wrong and there is no excuse for cheating. If everyone were allowed to take steroids, would he still be the best? I’m betting no.

    I would hope that his teammates now have a different opinion about his success as a baseball player and the ethical issues this has brought up. His unfair advantage had to have taken a toll on the team…and as much as I dislike the Yankees (Go Red Sox!), I hope they can look past it and learn from their “leader’s” mistakes.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkew27

    His admission does alot for his reputation. While he may not be elected to the Hall of Fame, it shows that he cares about his fans and the game, not the prestige that he once did. Pressure sees like a bad excuse to everyday people that do not play baseball, but it seems to be an excuse for a celebrity like A-rod. With people following his every move and expecting him to be the best, he felt the need to do something, even if it was not ethically the right choice. His teammates probably see him differently and lose respect for how awesome he was during those years. However, they need to realize the importance of this game to him if he was willing to come clean and attempt to right a wrong.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJacquelann

    I agree with an already posted comment that the drug testing was done on false pretenses and that either all of the 14% that tested positive should be penalized in some manner or none at all. What really hurts, however, is that the testimonies from A-Rod and Bonds give the impression to high school and college players looking to play in the majors that its okay to take illegal substances and lie about it as long as you come clean when completely surrounded by investigators. This message isn’t new for sports (“Taking illegal substances and even lying about it is okay as long as you don’t get caught”) but the way in which these athletes are creating wiggle-room with their incomplete apologies (hey, just play dumb!) takes away whatever ‘integrity kids and ball players have for these “professionals.” Before it was just don’t talk about the steroids problem. Now the game has changed to who can come up with the best “not-saying-I-did-it-but-maybe-I-did” public excuse, err…”apology.”
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBananagrams

    I do not think using “pressure” as an excuse is valid. I couldn’t use pressure as an excuse to cheat in class nor should an athlete to use steroids. I also don’t believe he didn’t know what he was taking. He is a pro athlete therefore, I think he’d be careful about what he put in his body…at least know what it is.

    I am sure his teammates lost a lot of respect for him because they may be very talented but how do you compete with a roided out freak of nature. It takes away a lot from a sport if there are athletes taking enhancement drugs to set records.

    That’s great he decided to admit it, but it seems to me it’s a little too late.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEmily87

    His admission simply shows responsibility. However, it was overdue, and he made excuses for it. A confession of this sorts would go over much better in PR terms if he would have admitted it initially and made no excuses. If he said it was ethically wrong–black and white–then we would think he is on that same ethical plane, but he didn’t do those things. He budged ethics, and he budged his apology. I don’t see how teammates can be at ease with him unless he has been much more real (ethically, consistent) with them.
    February 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdude.hey

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