In 1889, French physiologist Charles-Brown Sequard marketed, what he called at the time, a “rejuvenating elixir.” It was a liquid extract made from the testicles of guinea pigs and dogs. Well, as it would turn out, this was the first known product containing testosterone.
Surely, at the time, not many–if anyone at all besides Sequard–knew what exactly that “elixir” was. Well, what they also had no clue of is how that event in 1889 would also come to affect the sport that was beginning to make its mark as the country’s game during that century–even if it wouldn’t come to light for over 100 years later.
But, it did.
Baseball and PEDs, which contain testosterone, have sadly become synonymous with one another. Like the proverbial black cloud that we sometimes reference whenever we are having a less-than-favorable day, the black cloud of PED use is constantly hovering over MLB. And it has been now for quite some time.
The infamous battle for Roger Maris‘ single season home run record between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 captivated the entire nation, even for non-sports fans. Everyone was paying attention. But to those of us that avidly follow sports, especially the preparation practices that go into molding athletes for stardom in certain sports, something didn’t seem right. McGwire and Sosa both looked like NFL linebackers. Their builds weren’t consistent with that of a traditional baseball player.
However, for the sake of the excitement at the time, we ignored it. Our ignorance would soon come back to haunt us.
As outlandishly as he may act nowadays, former McGwire teammate Jose Canseco would write a tell-all book in regards to the rampant use of PEDs in the game, that he claimed started to boom right around the time that he and McGwire were awing fans with their monumental blasts out of the park in Oakland.
Well, as much as we scoffed at and pointed to Canseco as an attention-starved egomaniac, he was basically right in one regard. There was a problem in the game with performance-enhancing drugs. Again, ignorance coming back to bite us.
Since that time it has been nothing but a whirlwind of controversy and black-eyes for the game.
This issue has included some of the biggest names of our generation. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield — the list of perennial MLB All-Stars that have been connected to the drugs is overwhelmingly alarming.
The case involving the BALCO laboratory in San Francisco and its founder Victor Conte in the mid-2000s was what really brought all of this to light for the general public to see. This was the lab with which Bonds would have a direct connection to. It also brought out some the well-known names that we had invested our loyalties in, only to have it end in disappointment.
Eventually the PED issue would prompt Major League Baseball to bring in former senator, George Mitchell, to launch an extensive investigation into the matter. A report was formulated together by Mitchell and his team, outlining the shockingly–or not, depending which way you looked at it–extensive use of drugs throughout the game of baseball. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
PED use has brought upon involvement from Washington D.C., stricter penalties from MLB, and more stringent testing procedures. Yet even all of that, plus the revealing events of the mid-2000s, hasn’t seem to stop the snowball effect.
Now, as we deal with the current situation involving the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami, which has tied names the likes of A-Rod and Ryan Braun to it, you honestly have to wonder whether or not there is a light at the end of this nightmarish tunnel.
It’s supposed to be human nature that we learn lessons from our past transgressions. Well, if history so far has taught us anything, MLB participants sadly have yet to grasp that concept.