Steroids Bill of Attainder

April 17, 2009 |

   Article 1 of the United States Constitution has a provision to ban what are called Bills of Attainder. The founding fathers found these so insidious that they banned the states from issuing them as well. That is actually quite unusual in the Articles of the Constitution. What a Bill of Attainder does is target a specific group or individual and punish them for a crime that usually wasn’t illegal when they did it, often not punishing others who committed the same act.

               I think some of our modern baseball players have been served with a steroids bill of attainder. They have been singled out for punishment by the media, the politicians, and the generel do-gooder public in a way that goes far beyond what happens to their sports brethren. In the NFL many star players have tested positive for or admitted use of illegal substances. Shawne Merriman, Julius Peppers, and Rodney Harrison just to name a few. They have been rewarded with huge contracts and NFL accolades almost as soon as their 4 game suspensions were over.

        Many in this country love Lance Armstrong. I understand that he’s never had a fully positive test result and as such I think he should be given the benefit of the doubt. But consider this. The case against Armstrong involves an ex-trainer that has said under oath that he used makeup to cover Lance’s injection sights. One of his coaches has been found guilty of doping a large segment of his other cyclists. Finally his longtime friend Frankie Andreu has said in court that Lance has admitted to him use of certain performance enhancers. It seems that this evidence is quite similar to that against Bonds and Clemens. Just substitute Anderson, BALCO, and  McNamee  for the French and Italian names. Our reaction has not been the same to say the least.

             In boxing where pure brute strength is as crucial as anywhere fighters like Shane Mosley, James Toney, Roy Jones and Vitali Klitschko have had steroid incidents. They end up serving short suspensions and come back to fight for titles. Even in baseball no one really cares about the steroid histories of Rafael Betancourt, Guillermo Mota, Jose Guillen and many others who have tested positive. They don’t care because they aren’t worth it. It’s only fun to tear down the greats. The great steroid inquisitioners only enjoy blackballing Barry Bonds or keeping Mark McGwire out of the Hall of Fame.

            In 2003 when Alex Rodriguez “anonymously” tested positive, there were 103 others. Just do the math, that is at least 3 or 4 per team, and I think the true number is much higher. On one hand just the threat of testing and being found out no matter how anonymous the tests were supposed to be probably convinced many to quit in 2003. On the other hand even more were probably using HGH and other substances that there wasn’t an appropriate test for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for testing now. Those that get caught should be punished, just don’t judge these athletes on todays standard. During the 90’s and early 2000’s there was no testing. MLB acted as if it could care less and the feeling among players was it what what you did to keep up. It is now impossible to tell who did and didn’t during that era. If after seeing what type of players have been testing positive since 2005, you think you can positively say that any player was clean just by how they look; then you are just being silly.

              One argument against the inclusion in the Hall of Fame and recognition of the records by this group of players is that it is unfair to the older generation. I say that’s Bull. If you read Ball Four and other accounts of the 60’s and 70’s you’ll find that illegal amphetamines were extremely prevalent. Either through their own admission or court records Pete Rose, Willie Mays and Willie Stargell amongst others were not just amphetamine users but providers to the rest of the clubhouse. I’ll admit they are not AS performance enhancing as steroids. But 1) any substance whos purpose is to get you on the field at high level when otherwise you might be sitting in the dugout or on the trainers table is by definition performance enhancing. and 2) If you look at the home run totals from ’05 and ’06 after the steroid testing began, they didn’t decline that much. It wasn’t until ’07 when amphetamines were included in the testing that a marked drop-off was seen. As I said, I’m not saying they are worse than steroids; but I am saying they the helped the older players amass their stats and records. So are those tainted now? It makes sense to me that if that generation were willing to use an illegal substance like amphetamines so blatantly, the only thing stopping them from using steroids was access.

 I just want all the steroid era players to get a fair shake from history and the Hall. Bonds and Clemens should definitely be first ballot shoo-ins. McGwire got the unlucky honor of being the first one to get on the ballot, and what has been done to his candidacy is a disgrace. This year his vote total was similar to that of Dave Parker. Hey I like Dave Parker, but McGwire was a way better player. He was a dominant hitter before what would be considered his steroid era. He averaged around 40 HR’s his first four years. He was an MVP candidate four times before he went to the Cardinals. He won a gold glove and went to twelve All-Star games. In his first ten years his AB to HR ratio was 12 to 1. Lets compare him to first balloter Willie McCovey. Their batting averages were similar. McCovey won no gold gloves and only went to 6 All-Star games. He only had 4 years in his entire career that he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting and his AB/HR ratio was 15-1. Of course McCovey deserves to be in, but so does Big Mac. So to me the only reason left to keep out a player that may have used illegal substances that a big chunk of his opponents were also using is to make some point about his illegal activity. That didn’t seem to effect Orlando Cepeda or Fergie Jenkins.

      So al that I ask is to stop punishing these players in a way that islimited to just them. Remove this Bill of Attainder from Bonds , Clemens, McGwire and judge them on how they played on the field against their era. If you want to say that 500 HR’s doesn’t mean for them what it did for others thats fine, but its not fine to not acknowledge the greatness of these players that would have shone in any era.  So get off their backs, and writers….put them in the Hall.