The Needle and the Damage Down

Over the last decade or so, baseball has become increasingly boring. Why you ask.

A Steroid Molecule

A Steroid Molecule

There’s an easy answer: lack of runs scored. But why are teams scoring less? Another easy answers: less steroid use.

According to, steroids have been on the MLB banned substance list since the ‘90s, but have only been tested for by the MLB since 2003. In the early 2000’s, home runs- easily the most exciting phenomenon in baseball- were at an all time high. Consequently, Americas interest in baseball was also at an all time high. Players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire hit 60+ homeruns traveling well over 400 feet and fans loved it.

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmero, and Barry Bonds are all infamous for their invalvoment in PEDs and the steroid era.

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmero, and Barry Bonds are all infamous for their invalvoment in PEDs and the steroid era.

However, since the MLB has tightened up its PED (performance enhancing drug, i.e. steroids) testing, home runs have gone down, fan interest has decreased. Despite the fact that people preferred baseball with steroids, the MLB banned PEDs for three reasons. One, because it takes away from the “purity” of the game; whatever that really means. Second, it is simply cheating; it gives players an unfair advantage over others. Lastly, steroids are harmful to the human body and have long-term damaging effects. John Stuart Mill would argue that this last reason is unjust.

In John Stuart Mill’s The Liberty, Mill derives his principle on harm. Mill’s thesis on harm is that individuals’ actions are justifiable as long as there is no harm done to any other party. Mill furthers his claims by explaining that if ones actions carry out self-harm, and there is no harm done to any other individual or group, their actions are alright. Furthermore, if their actions only have an affect on the individual at hand, society or a governing body should no be allowed to intervene.

John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty.

John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty.

Thus, Mill would argue that the MLB’s ban on steroids is unjust. One of the reasons steroids are banned, is because of the extreme harm it does to ones body (decrease of testosterone, increased chances of getting certain cancers, increased chances of kidney failure, joint disorders…). The MLB claims that it is protecting the long-term health of its’ players. Nonetheless, because steroids are physically harming the player and the player only, Mill would argue that it is unjust that the MLB bans them. From Mill’s perspective, the affect of the steroids are only impacting that player, thus their use is just.

The easy counterargument is that steroids are cheating; they make players unnaturally bigger, faster, and stronger, and thus gives them and edge. Nonetheless, whether the MLB wants to admit it or not, an overwhelming amount of players in the MLB and minor leagues are using steroids.

Infamous steroid user Jose Conseco estimated that 80% of the MLB uses PEDs. While this number seems extreme, as more and more lists emerge of players who have tested positive for PEDs- the Mitchell Report and Biogenesis to highlight a few- it seems that an overwhelming number of players are using PEDs.

When MLB All Stars like Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun, Miguel Tejada, Manny Ramirez, and Rafael Pomero as well as MLB nobodies like Freddy Galvis, Guillermo Mota, and Dan Serafini have all been caught taking PEDs, it makes you think that steroids are a prevalent part of the game. While it is impossible to know what percentage of MLB players have taken PEDs, it is obvious that the number is high. This only strengthens the Millian prospective, steroids are harming no one except for the player himself.

So if everyone, or at least the majority, of MLB players are “cheating,” is it still cheating? The playing field is somewhat level, because everyone is taking them, thus everyone is getting the same unfair advantage, and everyone is benefiting equally.

PED's didn't help Sammy at all... Ok.

PED’s didn’t help Sammy at all… Ok.

Ultimately, from a Mill point of view, PEDs should be legal in the MLB. From the ethical point of view, PEDs should be banned. There will always be both sides of the coin.

As a business, the MLB wishes they could allow PED use. They do exactly what they say, the enhanced the performance of the game, thus creating more homeruns, which leads to higher scoring games. This is what the fans want and what sells tickets. But with the current knowledge of the harm that steroids do, it is impossible for the MLB to legalize the use of steroids without being scrutinized.



  1. kevingay3 · December 1, 2014

    I honestly do not really agree with this post. First of all, even if overall fan interest in baseball has gone down, I think that the lack of homeruns has made the game much more exciting – there is a lot more strategy involved and it actually takes coaching skill and player ability to score runs. A great example of this is the 2008 Phillies, in which the majority of their runs came from homeruns, and they ultimately won the World Series. On the other hand, the Giants from this year did not hit many homeruns but they were able to score because they used more strategy.
    On top of that, I think that it is important to realize that steroids to hurt some people – the pitchers. Many pitchers do not use steroids because it does not really help their ability to play, and thus they have worse performance due to the other field players taking steroids. I would also argue that steroid use does not make the game more exciting, as there is no motivation to steal bases or bunt because the person up at bat is probably going to just hit a homerun.


  2. johnoett · December 2, 2014

    I do not agree with your argument that steroid use only harms the people who choose to partake in it. When players use steroids, they are giving themselves an unnatural advantage, making it easier for them to get larger contracts and compete for playing time. As a consequence, players who choose to follow the rules are punished. Do you think it is right that in order to stay employed, players need to use drugs that are physically damaging and dangerous? The bottom line is that steroid users put pressure on other players to do something that is against their personal wishes and values. This is not an example of the harm that Mill talks about, because the steroid users do have a negative impact on other people.


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