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On Monday, the news broke that New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for 211 games for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). He is appealing, but as it stands, this is the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball to date.
A-Rod is the latest in a long string of high-profile baseball stars whose reputations have been tarnished by PEDs. Others include superstars like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens.
Baseball has been cracking down on steroid use with more frequent and random testing, but that hasn’t stopped the problem. After all, A-Rod’s suspension comes on the heels of former National League MVP Ryan Braun’s.
Why do the big stars keep risking their careers and reputations for drugs? They are all smart enough to know that a short-term gain in strength is likely to be offset by some potentially disastrous long-term health effects, which is why these drugs are banned in the first place.
Part of the problem is that steroid abuse is part of baseball’s culture. As in cycling, so many players are taking PEDs that teammates may feel they have to illegally up their game as well.
There may be a troubling trickle-down effect from high-profile athletes continuing to use these drugs. Although less than 3% of high school seniors used PEDs in 2012 (according to NIDA’s Monitoring the Future study), the company accused of giving A-Rod the illegal substances is allegedly being investigated for selling high school athletes PEDs as well. Teens may start to believe that the only way to go pro is to use these dangerous drugs.
So what’s the answer? Some have suggested that baseball should adopt a “one strike and you’re out policy”—meaning, if a player tests positive even once for illegal substances, he is banned from baseball for good. That is a hefty price to pay—do you think it would solve the steroid abuse problem in the sport?
Tell us: What are your ideas for getting pro sports players to stop using performance-enhancing drugs?