The Benefits vs. Drawbacks for Athletes of Doping in Major League Baseball
In the realm of modern sports, athletes are under immense pressure to succeed and outperform their competitors. It is not uncommon for some athletes to resort to performance-enhancing drugs to give them a competitive advantage. Many athletes abuse performance enhancing drugs by “doping,” which involves the use of anabolic drugs, stimulants, beta blockers, diuretics, all of which are banned substances in professional sports. Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional sports league that is among the most commonly plagued with players using performance enhancing drugs. Even though the drugs are banned by MLB, the players continue to use them so they can attempt to compete at a higher level. However, there are several side effects associated with the use of performance enhancing drugs. These are known to cause permanent physical damage. In fact, the drugs are linked to decreased athleticism over the long-term. This research paper will investigate the consequences associated with performance enhancing drugs among MLB players, while discussing the long-term risks associated with constant use. Performance enhancing drugs used in MLB provide short-term benefits but ultimately cause long-term damage to users.
The dose and duration of use are two significant components to consider when outlining the risks and benefits of taking performance enhancing drugs. The drugs are effective in the short term by increasing athletic ability. However, when a baseball player continues to use the drugs over an extended period of time, numerous negative side effects arise, which damage physical health and results in decreased athletic ability, (Ward, 2013). Using performance enhancing drugs, especially steroids, increases muscle mass in baseball players, and boosts hypertrophy, allowing the athlete to hit harder and throw faster. Inversely, steroids negatively affect hand-eye coordination, flexibility, range of motion, and balance, and ultimately decreases all other aspects involved with throwing and hitting baseballs, (Dunn, 2010). The more that a baseball player chooses to experiment with enhancement drugs, the more negative impacts become apparent. This is because experimental drugs have not been thoroughly tested, and unexpected side effects often result. Also, because these drugs have not largely been tested, they have not been tweaked to get rid of many of the side effects, (Finnoff and Murray, 2010).
Many doping methods and products can be healthy for athletes, such as testosterone replacement for baseball players with hypogonadism. They can even save an athlete’s life, such as when they take recombinant erythropoietin if they are undergoing chemotherapy, (Finnoff and Murray, 2010). But many of the same methods or products are sometimes used in supraphysiologic doses, for use in healthy athletes. This can be harmful, and even fatal, to the user. “For example, it is established that AAS cause adverse effects such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy, left ventricular hypertrophy, dyslipidemia, myocardial ischemia, adverse coagulation and platelet aggregation effects, arrhythmias, suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis, hypogonadism, infertility, major depression, addiction, prostatic hypertrophy, peliosis hepatica, intrahepatic cholestasis, hepatocellular adenocarcinoma, increased prevalence of tendinopathy and tendon rupture, and apoptosis of cardiac and neuronal cells, (Finnoff and Murray, 2010). Furthermore, a couple of the most prominent drugs that are associated with multiple sports-related deaths are stimulants, amphetamines and ephedra. The list of negative health consequences of taking performance enhancing drugs goes on. It is not within the scope of this paper to go over all of the negative side effects of doping, but it can be asserted that the practice is not healthy.
Another side effect of doping is the possibility of being caught. This can be very disgraceful for many professional baseball players. Many fans have called for players who have achieved records to have them withdrawn from the books because they have been shown to be on performance enhancing drugs when they achieved their accomplishments. “Deterrence was broadly captured by perceived likelihood of detection, likelihood of successful prosecution, the health effects of use and consequences of being caught (e.g. public humiliation)” (Mazanov, J., and Huybers, 2009).
However, professional baseball players often have one thing in mind when they make decisions about the actions they make: winning. Doping has been shown to increase the performance of athletes and improve their team’s chances of winning, (Mazanov, J., and Huybers, 2009). This is a short-term benefit, but it is one that makes doping well worth it for many baseball players. Winning is not only inherent in many professional athletes’ attitudes about life, but it can also be a major factor in the amount of money they are being paid. Sometimes, performance enhancing drugs are all that stand between the athletes, and securing a larger paycheque. Furthermore, doping can help many athletes overcome pressures from fans and people in the organization for which they play. If the athlete is not doing well, they may be at risk of being sent down to the minor leagues, and doping is one way for them to overcome the possibility of failing at their dreams, (Mazanov, J., and Huybers, 2009).
Furthermore, injuries are common in professional sports, and many times these go undetected. Players continue to decide to play through injury despite being in a considerable amount of pain. Sometimes this pain becomes too much for the player, but instead of retiring from the game (many of the injuries cannot be fixed with time or surgery), the baseball player can take performance enhancing drugs, (Grossman et al., n.d.). This is a particularly economically logical option due to the fact that many professional baseball players cannot earn money from the game for the duration of their lives, and playing ball for as long as possible is a top priority for many of these players. Many baseball players did not achieve an education outside of high school because they had always planned on striving for the Big Leagues. This means that after they retire, they often do not have enough funds to continue living their high standards of life, and this leads them to want to continue playing baseball for as long as they are able.
The list of possibly negative side effects from taking drugs is long. While the detrimental effects are plenty, there is no study that outlines the likelihood of a baseball player suffering from one of these ailments due to their use of performance enhancing drugs. Therefore, it is too difficult to know – from the limited historical documentation and research – whether the risks outweigh the rewards of doping. After all, anyone who drives a car stands the chance of being killed in a motor accident. So while the risks are plenty, the likelihood of one of these risks developing into a reality is relatively unknown. The rewards, however, are well-known. Specifically, this research has highlighted the fact that doping is an economically logical solution for many baseball players. The pressures of performing well, coupled with the potential for the player to not have a secure source of income throughout their lives, create an environment where doping becomes more of a reality to those who might not have otherwise considered taking performance enhancing drugs. Ultimately, more research is needed to determine the frequency of side effects in relation to doping in MLB, and this additional information could deter professional baseball players from continuing to dope.
Dunn, M., et. al. (2010). Drug testing in sport: The attitudes and experiences of elite athletes. International Journal of Drug Policy. Doi: 1934-1482
Finnoff, J., and Murray, T. (2010). Performance-enhancing drugs. ScienceDirect. Doi: EISSN 1545-153
Mazanov, J., and Huybers, T. (2009). Factors influencing Australian elite athletes’ decisions to use performance enhancing drugs – qualitative evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.
Ward, R.T., (2013). Fair or foul: When does media accusation of performance enhancing drug use become tortious? Pace I.P., Sports and Entertainment Law Forum.