Reclaiming the Game and Redirecting our Youth: Toward a Zero-Tolerance Policy on PEDs in MLB

"Quick Pitch" with Eddie Comeaux

“Quick Pitch” with Eddie Comeaux

Maybe it’s time to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and to implement more thorough drug testing procedures in Major League Baseball.

Just concede that players are willing to take shortcuts to gain an athletic advantage that will set them apart from their competition although it may risk their health and their athletic careers. After all, the use of PEDs can push a player over the tipping point. That is, PEDs can be the difference between: a lackluster minor league career and a serviceable major league career; 25 and 50 homeruns; a promising or respectable player and a perennial all-star; and a $2 million player and a $10 million player with endorsements.

Ask Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera, and Nelson Cruz about the benefits of PEDs.

After a recent MLB investigation into the Biogenesis of America scandal, it was determined that the aforementioned MLB players and several others used PEDs. They are serving 50-game suspensions at the very least for violating the league’s drug policy.

PEDs in Major League Baseball have been a topic of ongoing public discussion for decades now. Some of the league’s most glorified players have been implicated in PED use, including Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. In 2007, the Mitchell Commission Report named 89 MLB players who allegedly used steroids and other PEDs.

These players have been part of a league-wide culture of rampant PED use, as MLB officials have turned a blind eye to the pink elephant in the room.

In fact, as a former player, I have even witnessed minor league coaches who used PEDs apparently to simply show off their chiseled physiques while relaying hand signs to batters and base-runners as third base coach.

Physical strength matters in coaching, right? OK- I’m getting off topic.

Beyond the proverbial dark cloud hanging over MLB, what messages are we sending America’s youth?

Studies have shown disturbing trends in PED use among teens. Roughly 6 percent of middle school athletes admitted to using PEDs, according to a 2012 University of Minnesota study. In a survey by Digital Citizens Alliance, over three-fourths of U.S. males between the ages of 14 and 25 reported that PED use in professional sports puts pressure on young athletes to use drugs as well.

Parents are even condoning PED use by their children in order to gain a competitive edge, which is a form of child abuse in itself. In a report by Amy Shipley of the Sun Sentinel, she found that many parents of South Florida high school athletes support their children’s use of PEDs.

Other studies reveal that college athletes often develop an ego identity based on how they perform in their sport. And their perceptions of intercollegiate athletics significantly affect their opinions about whether or not the use of PEDs is acceptable. In interviews with 20 athletes, coaches, and trainers, it was reported that college athletes were more likely to use PEDs if they believed the drug would help them to win or gain a competitive edge.

Moving forward, what should Major League Baseball do?

It would prudent for Major League Baseball and the players union to move with all deliberate speed to institute a zero-tolerance PED policy and comprehensive drug testing procedures that minimizes loopholes in order to reclaim the game, to change the culture, and to offer a serious counter-narrative to our youth that safety and integrity matter.

Let’s eliminate the temporary player suspensions for drug policy violations because the risk currently is well worth the reward. Forget the three strikes rule. Players testing positive for PEDs should be banned from the game for life.

No ifs, ands or buts!

Dr. Eddie Comeaux received his B.A. at Cal-Berkeley, where he also played baseball. In 1994, he was drafted by the Texas Rangers and spent four years playing professional baseball.

Dr. Comeaux is currently an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside, where his research interests include student engagement, intercollegiate athletics, and diversity competence and leadership in defined social systems.

Dr. Comeaux can be reached at eddie.comeaux@ucr.edu

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