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Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia No players were selected this year for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. (Joseph Sohm / Visions of America / Corbis)

A Hall of Fame Shutout

Baseball journalists take a stand on steroid use

By Sean Price | January 15 , 2013
<p>Heavy hitters like Barry Bonds have been connected to steroid use. (Tom DiPace / AP Images)</p>

Heavy hitters like Barry Bonds have been connected to steroid use. (Tom DiPace / AP Images)

Two all-star sluggers and a pitcher with a blazing fastball—once, they were all shoo-ins for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But hitters Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and pitcher Roger Clemens didn’t make it into the Hall this year. No one did. The reason comes down to one word: steroids.

A MAJOR LEAGUE PROBLEM

Steroids are a type of medicine. They mimic the effects of a hormone called testosterone. Doctors prescribe steroids to people whose bodies do not naturally produce enough testosterone on their own. But when healthy, young athletes use steroids, the hormone promotes fast muscle growth.

Athletes that use steroids have an unfair edge over everyone else. Steroids can also cause major health problems such as liver damage, high blood pressure, and heart disease. When professional athletes take steroids, it sets a bad example for younger athletes. It encourages them to put their own health at risk in order to be more competitive.

Bonds and Sosa have been connected to steroid use; Clemens has been accused of it. They were all sports stars in the 1990s, when steroids were widely used among Major League Baseball (MLB) players.

In fact, many sports writers now refer to the 1990s as the “Steroids Era.” Baseball officials largely ignored the problem at the time. Major League Baseball has been accused of being slow to crack down on doping, the use of substances that artificially improve players’ performance.

After the Hall of Fame announcement was made, MLB officials and players’ union officials said that they were planning to toughen the league’s testing for testosterone as well as human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is a hormone that gives healthy athletes an unfair advantage.

Sports experts say that baseball is now far ahead of other sports in testing players for drugs like HGH. “We will continue to do everything we can to maintain a leadership stature in anti-doping efforts in the years ahead,” says baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

A YEAR WITHOUT LEGENDS

Even players who have not been tied to steroids did not make it to the Hall of Fame this year. Among them was Craig Biggio, a former Houston Astros second baseman. In 2007, he became only the ninth player to collect 3,000 hits for the same team.

Biggio said the steroids controversy probably affected a lot of players who never took performance-enhancing drugs.

“I think it’s kind of unfair, but it’s the reality of the era that we played in,” Biggio told reporters. “Obviously, some guys are guilty and others aren’t, and it’s painful for the ones that weren't.”

To get into the Hall of Fame, an athlete must receive 75 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Eligible players can get up to 15 tries, and athletes like Biggio may one day get enough votes to be selected. But some of baseball’s biggest stars may be shut out from their sport’s Hall of Fame for good.

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