Last week, it was announced that the new NFL CBA would include testing for HGH. It was a smart move for the league, potentially heading off a big scandal while it had the chance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that baseball will follow suit anytime soon. It’s a repeat of history, as the NFL has always been well ahead of MLB when it comes to preventing the use of PEDs. If MLB would’ve began testing for steroids as early as the NFL, two decades worth of damaging scandal would’ve been prevented.
If we’ve learned anything about sports, it’s that if cheating goes unregulated, it becomes rampant. Obviously, the reason why baseball has been mired in steroid controversy is because steroids weren’t technically illegal until a few years ago. Pretty much everyone, with the exception of Rick Helling, turned a blind eye to the problem because, as it turns out, home run chases generate a lot of attention. And attention means cash. In the end, the price that baseball has and will pay for ignoring steroids isn’t worth the breaking of a few home run records. The Steroid Era is now a permanent stain on the history of a beautiful game.
For some, baseball’s recent enforcement of steroid use is too little, too late. However, despite the fact that it took them far too long to fix the problem, their efforts appear to be effective. Once again, 50 home runs in a season is a significant total. However, since the MLBPA has not agreed to institute testing for HGH, one has to wonder how much PEDs have truly been eradicated. After all, HGH is hardly a new drug. Its use was a big topic in the Mitchell Report. Certain people, like actor Sly Stallone, actually advocate the use of HGH, referring to the substance as the Fountain of Youth. It’s an immensely popular product and it’s a safe bet that it is quite obtainable for professional athletes.
You would hope that seeing the ruined legacies of Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, etc. is enough to deter players from using HGH. And, that probably is enough to prevent many from cheating the system. However, when facing the prospect of not making it or having a chance cash in on a contract that will leave them comfortable for the rest of their lives, I’d imagine that many ballplayers are willing to take the risk of having a tarnished legacy. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are more than a few MLB players currently using HGH.
The stink of it all is that MLB has now been giving HGH tests to minor leaguers for over a year. The only reason it isn’t in the bigs is because the players’ union has been giving it a stiff arm. Here is their reasoning, according to MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner:
“When a test is available that is scientifically validated and that can be administered safely and without interfering with the players’ ability to compete, it will be considered.” — Weiner
In other words, the MLBPA is skirting this for the exact same reasons it skirting steroid testing for over a decade. HGH is a bargaining chip that the MLBPA isn’t willing to concede without getting something back in return. If it interfered with player performance, it’s doubtful that MLB would subject minor league players to testing. And, there is absolutely no way it would’ve been approved in the NFL if that were the case. It’s also false to say the testing isn’t validated. Despite what Weiner says, the MLBPA’s reluctance to undergo HGH testing is about power and it’s a shame that the group is unwilling to learn from past mistakes.
I’ll wrap this up with some quotes from Rick Helling when he first approached the union about the steroid problem in 1998.
“It’s one thing to be a cheater, to be somebody who doesn’t care whether it’s right or wrong. But it’s another thing when other guys feel like they have to do it just to keep up.”
“There is this problem with steroids. It’s happening. It’s real. And it’s so prevalent that guys who aren’t doing it are feeling pressure to do it because they’re falling behind. It’s not a level playing field. We’ve got to figure out a way to address it.”– Helling
It doesn’t seem like baseball has reached that point again, but, based on what has happened in the past, are we really prepared to rule it out? The lack of HGH testing in a sport with the PED history of baseball is just asking for trouble. It’s problem that needs to be addressed in the off-season. Otherwise, you have to question the sport’s legitimacy once again.