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Should Steroid Users Be included in the Baseball Hall of Fame?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Getty/ Jared Wickerham
*Updated 2022
In 2021 no new players were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the first time since 2013 and the third time in four decades. While the 2022 induction class reverses this trend and includes seven honorees, voters nowadays seem to be struggling with morality issues, ranging from performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to DUI arrests, domestic violence allegations and even politically incorrect tweets. In contrast, back in 2013, the Baseball Writers Association of America solely protested the prevalent role steroids were playing in baseball. From the Association’s point of view, PED users, including some of Major League Baseball’s biggest stars of the “Steroids Era” (the 1990s and 2000s), should be left out of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
However, in 2017, the Association made an about-face in its judgment when it voted in a few players who were rumored to have used steroids during their careers. This shift sparked the heated debate about whether players who allegedly use PEDs should be admitted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.  Here are three reasons why players who take PEDs should be included in the Hall of Fame and three reasons why they shouldn’t be included.


3 reasons why they should be included:


Steroids are not a critical advantage in baseball

Baseball is different from other common “steroid sports” in that steroids don’t give a baseball player an incredible advantage. The key factors that determine a baseball player’s ability and performance have nothing to do with steroids. In contrast, a batter`s ability to identify the pitch and its rotation, or a pitcher`s ability to throw a curve-ball through the strike zone have everything to do with skill and science.


The Hall of Fame is the museum of baseball history, and PED use is part of the history

If you ever visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame to learn about the game’s greatest players, you’ll find a number of players featured there who used steroids. Take legends Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. The Hall of Fame honors baseball’s best players, PED use or not. Therefore, you’ll learn about everyone before, during and after the “Steroids Era,” because it`s all part of  Major League Baseball`s history, which is the point of the museum, after all.


Fallen heroes

The mythical status of all professional athletes is long gone. Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods are just a couple examples of professional athletes who are no longer seen as being role models for youngsters. Today, we know much more about our sports heroes’ lives, for better and for worse. This insight has contributed to the erosion of their status as heroes.

As athletes’ statuses change, our attitudes toward them do as well. This has led to a growing public understanding and acceptance of athletes who use PEDs. Thus, our criteria for including baseball players in the National Baseball Hall of Fame has softened over the years, allowing for the inclusion of PED users. In fact, some voters don’t feel that they should be passing judgement on players who used PEDs when there are reportedly racists, gamblers and wife beaters in the Hall of Fame.

3 reasons why they should not be included


Accountability is the moral way to go

People who support inducting PED users into the Hall of Fame may argue that “we are not the morality police.” Supporters might also say, “we’re not talking about murderers and rapists, just the baseball Hall of Fame.” However, what about the morality argument? The Hall of Fame actually has a morality clause that refers to a player’s record, integrity, playing ability, character, sportsmanship, and contributions to his team as considerations for induction. Being recognized as top professionals in any field is an honor, which deserves respect. The Baseball Hall of Fame is a beautiful tradition that deserves to stay clean. This means leaving players who used PED out of it. After all, the players who used steroids chose not to play the game fairly. Nobody is asking to put them in jail, just not to give them baseball’s highest honor – as a Hall of Famer.


“Everyone was doing it” is not a good enough reason

To justify professional baseball players’ use of PEDs by saying that everyone else was doing it” should not stand as a legitimate argument. Professional athletes are not teenagers; peer pressure is not a legitimate reason for going against the rules of Major League Baseball.

It may be understandable that many players were under a lot of pressure and therefore felt they had to take PEDs to keep their stats high and take care of their families. However, also saying “I’m supposed to be in the Hall of Fame” despite knowingly cheating is wrong and distasteful.


Consider all the other clean players

There are so many clean professional baseball players who have never used PEDs. These clean players were forced to compete against players who had an illegal advantage over them, and they consequently may have lost opportunities to earn more money and advance in their career and status. The least we can do is reward these clean players by not admitting the PED users into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Doing so is like spitting in the faces of the upstanding players.


The Bottom Line: This debate really raises questions of values and norms. Given it is the Baseball Hall of Fame, it also becomes a question of legacy. What do you think?

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