New developments in the Alex Rodriguez saga have once again made baseball’s steroid issue front-page news across the country. Bud Selig, the soon-retiring Commissioner of Major League Baseball, has decided to make an example out of Alex Rodriguez by suspending him without pay for the entire 2014 season for violating drug agreements and obstructing investigations of his illicit actions.
While a season-long suspension may seem harsh, the punishment is not nearly harsh enough to deter other players from using steroids. The suspension highlights the flaws in Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The league’s punishments for using steroids are not severe enough to deter a player from using them. Players have an incentive to use steroids to enhance their abilities because impressive statistics result in impressive salaries.
Even if players are caught, they are not given much of a punishment. Under the 2005 rules, first offenders are given a slap on the wrist in the form of a 50-game suspension for steroid violations. However, once they return, they make their full salary as if nothing had happened. Therefore, players have an incentive to use steroids because even if they are caught and are suspended without pay, they will make more money once they return than they would have if they hadn’t used steroids in the first place.
In order for players to stop using steroids, harsh monetary punishments must be applied to take away the economic incentive to use steroids. Under the MLB’s current drug prevention program, any player who is caught using steroids does not receive pay while he is suspended. I propose that any player who serves a performance-enhancing drug suspension automatically has his salary reduced to the league minimum of $500,000 for the rest of his career in addition to the lost wages during the suspension. While this may sound harsh, it must be put in perspective. A salary of $500,000 to play a sport that you love sounds quite good when compared to the 2011 U.S. median household income of $51,324. Players stripped of their multimillion-dollar contracts would still be wealthy in comparison to most Americans.
Major League Baseball writers have refused to vote players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others that have been accused of using steroids into the Hall of Fame in recent years. The zero-tolerance mentality should be brought to the game’s drug policy to end what has become a steroid epidemic in America’s pastime.