Impact of Steroids on Team Sports

By now, everyone knows about the steroid scandals that have forever changed the game of Baseball.  From Alex Rodriguez, to Roger Clemens, to Barry Bonds, to Mark McGuire, to Jose Canseco; steroids have seemingly become as big a part of the storied history of the game as Cal Ripken’s games played streak, Babe Ruth’s prophetic pointing, or Pete Rose’s gambling practices.

While many fans of the game are disgusted with the wide spread supplement usage, and the possibly permanent impact that it will have on the record books of one of the most established athletic leagues in American history… others seem to accept the supplement usage, and instead focus their disdain on the stigma that surrounds baseball players who “juice.”

I’m not a member of either camp, but I do have a theory as to why supplement usage has become such a “big deal” in the MLB in particular:

Baseball is a much more individualistic sport than the other mainstream sports (Football, Hockey, Basketball, and Soccer).

That’s what it comes down to as far as I’m concerned.  A team in baseball can reap huge rewards (from championships to massive gross incomes) even if only one player on the team is doping.  One “enhanced” player can make more of an impact in a baseball game than any one “enhanced” player can make in any of the other team sports that I’ve mentioned.

I compare Baseball’s team aspects most to relay swimming/running.  Each event (or game) consists of multiple instances of individual achievement or failure… the compilation of which results in a team victory or loss.  There is no need for chemistry among players as there is in Football, Hockey, Basketball, or Soccer.  Whether or not each player wins regularly, or makes a big payday is almost entirely dependant on their own actions on the field of play.

Once you start consider that Baseball has more similar dynamic to such sports as: Track/Field, Swimming, Golf, Cycling, it’s actually easier to understand why Baseball has the type of relationship with steroid usage that many other mainstream team sports seem to lack.  I challenge anyone to suggest that steroid usage in Baseball is currently being taken more seriously than widespread supplement usage in Track/Field, Swimming, Golf, or Cycling would be.

So from now on, consider what would happen if it was proven that Lance Armstrong were using steroids when he won a record number of Tour d’France races in a row.  It’s my opinion that the fallout from that would be as big (or possibly bigger) than the fallout from the A-Rod chronicles.

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