Will steroids alter baseball records, too?
Accusations of drug use cast suspicion on current and former stars. Increasingly, fans want players proven to have used steroids removed from the record books.
Say it ain't so, BALCO. Perhaps baseball's steroid brouhaha hasn't quite reached the same innocence- shattering proportions as did the 1919 "Black Sox," when players accepted payoffs to throw the World Series. After that scandal broke, one wide-eyed boy, a famous story goes, cried out to Shoeless Joe Jackson: "Say it ain't so, Joe."Skip to next paragraph
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But today, leaks from a federal investigation into the alleged distribution of designer steroids by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), a former player's tell-all book, and congressional hearings have cast suspicion on current and former star players. Many fans and commentators have begun to wonder whether their records should stand.
"As much as this opens yet another Pandora's box, I think all sports have the moral obligation to erase any records linked to banned or illegal performance-enhancing drugs," says Keith Strudler, a professor of sports communication at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "This goes beyond the simple concept of justice - which is clearly relative and impossible to guarantee - but is critical in maintaining the integrity of the game."
A whopping 86 percent of baseball fans said steroid use was either a serious problem or ruining the game, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll conducted last week. An ABC News/ESPN poll also last week found that 69 percent of baseball fans said the league had not done enough to prevent steroid use. As to whether players who used performance-enhancement drugs should remain in the record books, 59 percent said they should not.
Much of the suspicion has fallen on the league's premier home-run hitters and the records they set. Under tense and sometimes exasperated questioning in a US House hearing last week, former slugger Mark McGwire refused to say whether he had used performance-enhancing steroids or not. In his new book, former star Jose Canseco wrote that he and McGwire used to inject themselves with steroids.
On Tuesday, San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds announced he might sit out the season because of knee surgery, leaving some commentators to speculate that he might retire. Bonds was on track to break Hank Aaron's career record of 755 home runs, possibly this season. According to news reports of leaked testimony in the BALCO case, Bonds's alleged mistress said Bonds told her he knowingly used steroids.
More than any other, baseball is a sport of history and lore. Heroes of past eras are compared to those today, to the thousandth of a decimal point. To preserve this historical integrity, the big leagues have even banned such technological improvements as lighter aluminum bats. The same wood bats used today are much the same as those of 100 years ago.
Babe Ruth's record 60 home runs, set in 1927, stood for nearly four decades before Roger Maris broke it on the last day of the season in 1961, by a single home run. Maris's record stood for nearly another 40 years before McGwire obliterated it with 70 in 1998, the same year Sammy Sosa hit 66 home runs.