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Performance Enhancers in Major League Baseball

Performance Enhancers in Major League Baseball
Jon Davis - Wed Mar 23, 2011 @ 08:32PM
Comments: 24

            I am fairly new to the sport of baseball.  I have only been following it for two seasons now, but as with everything else I take an interest in, I was not content just to dabble in it.  Instead, I dove head first, learning everything I could about it and catching up on what I missed out on in the first 23 years of my life.  So when my friend jokingly accused my favorite player, Jim Thome, of being a “juicer”, I did what every self-respecting fan would do - I shook my fist angrily and told him he was wrong, because Jim Thome would not do such a vile thing!  However, I was not merely going to attest to his character.  I wanted to clear his name.  Fanatically, I scoured the internet for any accusations against my hero.  In doing this research, I stumbled onto a topic with very great depth and that continues to be examined today with implications pointing to many giants of that time in baseball and even still currently playing.

To start out, I began with the first name everyone learns on the subject – Jose Canseco – and branched out from there.  It should be noted that some of the resources on this pathfinder deal with players whose guilt have not been ascertained.  Any of the resources I have included that seem bias towards guilt or innocence I have included because they either give specific insight into the topic or because their names have become so synonymous with the subject that they had to be included.

            The list compiled below refers to many substances, but most frequently it is referring to anabolic steroids or human growth hormones.  Other examples that are used under this category are amphetamines and ephedra.  The topic covers performance enhancers in baseball as a whole, but most specifically focuses on “the steroid era” which is roughly from the early 1990’s to 2005.

            This pathfinder is intended mostly for baseball fans, but much of the information pertains to sports in general and may be beneficial to athletes.  The resources are largely news reports and books by reporters and athletes which makes them easily accessible to anyone.  However, some of the articles that detail the performance enhancers can be highly academic for a casual reader.

Where to start:

  • Canseco, Jose. Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big. New York: Regan Books, 2005
    • This is Jose Canseco’s autobiography that brought attention to the topic of steroid use in the MLB to the limelight in a big way.  He credits steroids for his success in baseball and drops names of people he had reason to believe were also doping.
  • Mitchell, George J. “Report to the commissioner of baseball of an independent investigation into the illegal use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball”.  Major League Baseball. 13 December, 2007. 11 October, 2010. http://files.mlb.com/mitchrpt.pdf
    • “The Mitchell Report”, for short, is the 409 page investigation into the use of performance enhancers in baseball.  It was instigated by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig who appointed former senator George Mitchell to conduct the investigation.  It lists dozens of players and offers suggestions of how to deal with the problem.
  • “The Steroid’s Era”. ESPN. Web. 27 September, 2010. 10 October, 2010.
    • A topic page from professional news source that quickly covers the major events of this period and gets updates on relevant news.


  • Bouton, Jim. Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues. New York: World Pub. Co., 1970.

o        This book predates the “steroid era”, but is included because it is one of the first books to mention performance enhancers in baseball.  The author was a pitcher who chronicles a season in the majors.  It brooches all sorts of taboo baseball subjects, one of which is the use of amphetamines by players.

  • Bryant, Howard.  Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power, and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball.  New York : Viking, 2005.

o        Bryant writes not only about the problem of steroids in baseball, but how it was actually used to revive the sport in a time when it was rapidly losing its fan base due to strikes and poor ratings.

  • Carroll, Will. The Juice: the Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems.  Chicago : Ivan R. Dee, 2005.
    • Carroll’s book differs from Canseco’s and Bryant’s books in that it focuses on the problem from a medical standpoint.  He himself is a sportswriter whose focus is on the medical portion of the games.
  • Fainaru-Wada, Mark and Lance Williams. Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, BALCO, and the Steroids Scandal that Rocked Professional Sports. New York: Gotham Books, 2006.

o        This book is the result of a two year investigation by the two journalists into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), a company that made custom performance enhancers and had a network to distribute them to big name athletes.

  • Thompson, Teri, et al. American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

o        An investigation into one of the big names mentioned in the Mitchell Report.  The focus, however, is more on the league itself and the blind-eye it turns towards the use of performance enhancers.

Special Reports:

  • Hendricks, Randal A., Stephen L. Mann, and Bret R. Larson-Hendricks.  “An Analysis of the Career of Roger Clemens”. Hendricks Sports Management. 28 January, 2008.  10 October, 2010.  < http://www.rogerclemensreport.com/>
    • Roger Clemens sports agency released an extensive 49 page study into Clemens’ statistics and injury-proneness to other elite pitchers in baseball history with similar longevity in an effort to show that there were no abnormalities in his numbers that would lend themselves to the use of performance enhancers.
  • Jensen, Shane T., et al.  “A Statistical Look at the Roger Clemens’ Pitching Career”.  University of Pennsylvania. 10 February, 2008.  10 October, 2010. < http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/jwolfers/Papers/ClemensAnalysis.pdf>
    • A response to the Clemens Report in which professors of statistics from the University of Pennsylvania show that there is in fact abnormalities in Roger Clemens’ post 30 stats.
  • “Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program”. Major League Baseball. 12 October, 2010. < http://mlbplayers.mlb.com/pa/pdf/jda.pdf>
    • A complete coverage of the MLB’s drug policy.  Of particular importance is the list of banned and controlled substances.
  • “Summary and Recommendations: Report to the Commisioner of Baseball of an independent investigation into the the illegal use of steroids and other performance enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball”. Major League Baseball. 20 December, 2007.  11 October, 2010. < http://files.mlb.com/summary.pdf>
    • A more concise version of the full report by George Mitchell (See “Where to start” above).

News Reports:

  • Assael, Shaun and Peter Keating. “Who Knew?”. ESPN E-Ticket. Web. 9 November, 2005. 11 October, 2010.
    • A special news report chronicling the omnipresent level of complicity over the use of performance enhancers in the sport.
  • Bodley, Hal. “Medical Examiner: Ephedra a factor in Bechler death”. USAToday. Web. 13 March, 2003. 9 October, 2010.
    • An incident involving the death of a pitcher who had been taking ephedra.
  • Josefson, Deborah. "Concern raised about performance enhancing drugs in the US." BMJ: British Medical Journal 317.7160 (1998): 702. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
    • This article is quite dated, but gives good information on certain anabolic steroids and creatine as well as being one of the first articles about Sammy Sosa’s and Mark McGwire’s admission to using then legal performance enhancing substances.
  • Kimball, Bob and Beau Dure. “BALCO investigation timeline”. USAToday. Web. 27 November, 2007. 9 October, 2010.
    • A compilation and quick overview of the BALCO scandal.
  • “Mark McGwire Admits Using Steroids”. Fox News. Web. 11 January, 2010. 11 October 2010.
    • News article about McGwire coming clean about his performance enhancer use including his 1998 season when he broke the home run record.
  • “Rodriguez admits to using steroids”. Sports Illustrated. Web. 10 February, 2009. 11 October, 2010.
    • After it was leaked that he tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003, Alex Rodriguez admitted to having using performance enhancers for 3 seasons.
  • Schmidt, Michael S. “Sosa Is Said to Have Tested Positive in 2003”. New York Times. Web. 16 June, 2009. 11 October, 2010.
    • A report stating that in 2003 he tested positive.  This may have future repercussions for Sammy Sosa, because he testified under oath that he had not used illegal performance enhancers.
  • Will, George F. "Barry Bonds's Enhancement." Newsweek 149.21 (2007): 82-84. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Oct. 2010.
    • Will describes the effects HGH can have on a grown adult’s body and compares it with anecdotes about Barry Bond’s unusual growths for a man his age.

Academic Articles:

  • Becker, Amy B., and Dietram A. Scheufele. "Public Perceptions of Steroid Use in Sport: Contextualizing Communication Efforts." International Journal of Sport Communication 1.4 (2008): 444-457. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 15 Oct. 2010.
    • An analysis of the general view Americans hold towards athletes and the use of performance enhancers.
  • Graham, Michael R., et al. "Anabolic Steroid Use." Sports Medicine 38.6 (2008): 505-525. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.
    • This article offers an overview of the dangers of anabolic steroids and ways to trace it.
  • Kicman, A. T. "Pharmacology of anabolic steroids." British Journal of Pharmacology 154.3 (2008): 502-521. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Oct. 2010.
    • A highly detailed look at anabolic steroids from a chemical and biological standpoint.  Describes both the benefits and risks of their use by athletes.
  • Powers, Michael E. "The Safety and Efficacy of Creatine, Ephedra, and Anabolic-Steroid Precursors." Athletic Therapy Today 9.4 (2004): 57-63. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 10 Oct. 2010.
    • A nice overview of some performance enhancers written in a manner that even a casual reader can get something out of.


  • Baseball’s Steroid Era: www.baseballssteroidera.com
    • A compilation of many resources and up-to-date news on the subject.  Of particular interest is the list of all players implicated and who have admitted to their use.  Also has links to court documents.
  • ESPN: http://espn.go.com/mlb/
    • Current news in the baseball world with less bias than MLB’s official site.  Updates are almost immediate.
  • Major League Baseball: www.mlb.com
    • The news tends to be more bias since it’s operated by the MLB, but it’s a good place to get statistics which may be relevant to the topic.


  • The Tenth Inning. Dir. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. PBS, 2010. DVD.
    • A highly rated documentary that is similar to Juicing the Game in that it not only discusses the use of steroids by MLB players, but also how they were used to revive the sport.

Further Research:

  • Newspaper Source Database
    • This database covers current newspapers from 1995 and on making it an ideal source to retrace coverage of the Steroid Era.
  • SpringerLink Database
    • Searching through this site you can find numerous articles relating to the technical and scientific aspects of this topic.  Suggested search terms: baseball, steroid, anabolic, Jose Canseco, BALCO, performance enhancer, ephedra, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, amphetamine, doping
  • SPORTDiscus EBSCO Database
    • A great database focused exclusively on sports including medicine and fitness with weekly updates.
  • Wikipedia: www.wikipedia.org
    • This comes with the usual warning that everything on Wikipedia comes with, but baseball is such a statistic-oriented sport that it is easy to find documentation for anything disputable.


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