MLB needs drug testing

With the recent revelations about the steroid use of Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, there is speculation about the affect this will have on Major League Baseball.

One thing is certain: whatever action baseball takes, it will be years too late to curb the drug problem.

For years, the NFL has realized the need for drug testing. Steroid abusers such as Lyle Alzado became the poster children for new drug testing rules.

Every few years, a new performance-enhancing drug is added to the league’s banned substance list.

The Olympics always seem to end up stripping athletes for drug use after the games.

There has always been the thought that football and Olympic sports such as track and field, wrestling and weightlifting featured the most steroid and performance-enhancing drug users. There is now evidence that nearly every sport is not immune from banned substances.

Division II athletics recently took an important step towards stopping performance enhancing drugs. On Aug. 1, new legislation was passed with the backing of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguard and Medical Aspects of Sports to begin year-round drug testing.

After customarily testing only Division II football players, all sports will now be included in the testing. The movement to test in all sports was put into effect after the committee found ephedrine and steroid use in nearly every sport was nearing the levels reported for football.

Positive test results in Division II were comparable to those found in Division I. During the August 2002-August 2003 testing period, 98.6 percent of Division II football players tested negative, compared to 98.9 percent in Division I football.

Due to limited funds, Division II athletes will be tested in all sports. Athletes in sports that have been projected as higher-risk are more likely to be tested.

What Division II athletics, as well as other sports that have instituted drug testing, have realized is that the benefits of drug testing far outweigh the negative aspects.

Professional baseball is a sport that many people have criticized for being behind the times. The people running the sport tend to not know how to market the sport as well as the NFL or NBA.

Those in charge of Major League Baseball are severely in need of catching up to other sports in drug testing policy.

When Mark McGwire admitted to taking a performance-enhancing supplement during his pursuit of the single-season homerun record, he was still viewed as a hero by a sport desperately in need of a face to put at its front. After the fact, the supplement he was taking was deemed illegal.

With Bonds chasing the all-time homerun record, the sport will be at a crossroads. Asterisks next to the record are meaningless.

Ensuring the health of the athlete chasing the record should be the number one concern on baseball’s list.