Steroids or PEDs in general are a subject that users may be a little divided on, but fans are pretty solid with. No one likes to hear that one of their favorite athletes, especially one with accolades and achievement under their belt, turns out to be on steroids, or Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).
But who is the worst offender? Well, we can’t quite know that for sure (except with the few documented cases of celebrities who used steroids), but it’s safe to say that no sport is innocent in this regard. Every sport on the face of the planet has surely had a few doping scandals, especially the ones we hold near and dear to our hearts.
Two such sports are the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Both of them have had their fair share of steroid scandals, believe you me, but the MLB tends to get a worse rap than the NFL. In my opinion, the exact opposite is true, and I’ll tell you why.
Now, this isn’t to say that the MLB are angels or anything, but when it comes to doping, you shouldn’t be throwing shade at an organization while looking away from a worse offender.
So, here is why the NFL is worse than theMLB when it comes to doping.
MLB and Its Negative Reputation
Major League Baseball didn’t really hit its true craze until the 1998 season following the record-breaking home run chase. Balls were flying out of the park, one right after the other, with notable ones coming from Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Of course, then came the accusations that McGwire was on creatine, among other substances. Though, the scrutiny was well-warranted. Not everyone was willing to believe the authenticity of the single-season home run record.
MLB is probably the only sport where the numbers really show a player’s true potential. The number of hits, homeruns, and wins, can really define a player, and with these number-based records so ingrained into sports history, it’s no wonder why people are able to scrutinize the MLB more. However, I must direct you to America’s other favorite pastime, and the larger offender.
NFL and Its Steroid Epidemic
Now, the reason is pretty simple: the MLB relies a lot more heavily on statistics to finger those with bad sportsmanship. A relatively bad player who suddenly gets a large spike in hits and home runs will absolutely cause some suspicion, but in the NFL, such is not the case. Instead, they just have a stricter substance-abuse policy. That doesn’t mean that people don’t slip through the cracks, however. Even when they’re caught, though, the punishment is extremely lenient.
How so? Well, let me introduce you to one of the most blatant examples in NFL history.
The Curious Case of Shawne Merriman
So, it’s 2005-2006. You’re Shawne Merriman, a linebacker, and a pretty damn good one. You decide to get an edge in the game by using steroids, and after the Pro-Bowl season, you then test positive for said steroids and get caught. As punishment, you get a league-imposed suspension for a total of four weeks for cheating and then are allowed to finish the season with 17 sacks despite only playing 12 games. You finish third in the Defensive Player of the Year balloting, right behind Jason Taylor and Champ Bailey.
Just so we all understand: all the muscle gained from repeated steroid use does not go away in four weeks. He returned, without a doubt still holding some edge over the competition, and even his own teammates when it comes to rankings. Ask anyone: using steroids in cheating, full stop, and cheating should not allow you to keep playing, much less another two seasons.
Around the same time was the Barry Bonds scandal. He had been accused of steroid abuse, and even though there had been nothing concrete around the time, he was still forced to retire due to these reports. The consensus now is that yes, he did in fact cheat. However, Barry Bonds was not rewarded with two more seasons, endorsements, praise, radio appearances, and enough money to fill an olympic swimming pool. No, Merriam got that, and to this day, he is still looked fondly upon.
Why? What is this double standard? See, while the NFL may have a stricter doping policy, there is clearly a bias within football culture when compared to baseball culture, and that’s just not, well, sportsman-like.
Why Steroid-Usage to the NFL is More Detrimental Than to MLB
I’m going to get some hate for this one, boys and girls. However, it’s a hill I’m willing to die on.
In the MLB, the biggest thing you need to worry about is being able to hit the ball. Pretty much every sports expert can agree that you could take copious amounts of steroids, and yet you wouldn’t be able to hit a 95 mph ball without any training. It does not determine if you hit the ball, but rather how far you hit it. Yes, distance can determine a lot in a game, but its effect isn’t as detrimental to the sport as it is to football. In baseball, you might get an edge from steroids, but it’s not as bad as football.
In football, the edge you get from using steroids can be substantial. It’s a game where you have to throw, run, and tackle your way into victory. Yes, football is also very much strategy and teamwork based, more than baseball some would argue, but when you take the scoring system into account and how strength can play a huge role in whether or not you cross that goal, steroids can really turn the tides of the game.
I’m not saying that MLB should be given more slack when it comes to steroid usage; I’m saying that we should hold all players in all sports to the same standard, and that includes imposing the same punishments if necessary.