Is the Steroid Era over?

April 26, 2012

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Attorneys delivered opening statements in the retrial of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens this week. Clemens is charged with obstruction of Congress, making false statements and perjury in connection with his testimony to a 2008 House committee investigating the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.The hearings convened after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig asked U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, a former director of the Boston Red Sox, to investigate steroid use by major league players. Selig probably never imagined that Mitchell would spend 20 months interviewing hundreds of people, collecting tens of thousands of documents to ultimately link 89 major leaguers to illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

Following the investigation, the league’s testing procedures and Joint Drug Agreement were modified and expanded. With stricter policies and unified support from Selig, players, coaches and owners, many hoped the embarassing chapter and pervasive abuse was over—and then came Ryan Braun. Mere months after being named the National League’s Most Valuable Player for 2011, it was revealed that Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs during the playoffs. The left fielder’s suspension was overturned on appeal when the arbitrator found that the testing procedure was flawed.

In sports, and especially in Major League Baseball, the “Steroid Era,” is akin to the Dark Ages--but is it over? Do steroids pervert the games we love, our children and professional sports? Does it matter? Or have we moved onto the next issue? Or is it possible that it’s all connected?

ESPN.com senior writer Lester Munson has been in Washington for the retrial but is back in Chicago with an update. Dick Butkus, NFL Hall of Famer, former Chicago Bear and co-founder of the I Play Clean campaign which aims to eradicate steroid use in high school sports, joins the conversation.

Clemens sat down with famed hard-nose interviewer Mike Wallace for 60 Minutes in January 2008 and vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs.