Will Home Run Record Remain Forever Tainted by Steroid Use?

Alex Rodriguez connected for his 584th career home run to pass Mark McGwire for eighth place on baseball's all time home run list Saturday. Like many others, however, his records may always be looked upon in doubt due to his admission to steroid use earlier in his career.

On Saturday, April 17, at the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez passed Mark McGwire for eighth place in Major League Baseball’s all-time home run record with a shot over the right-center field wall for his 584th career home run.  What may be unique about this particular instance of milestone eclipse for baseball is that it marks what may be one of the most significant in which both players have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs at some time during their careers.

Mark McGwire was the first player whose steroid use gained high-profile media attention, when it was admitted in August of 1998—during McGwire’s original pursuit or Roger Maris’s single season home run record—that McGwire had been using a dietary supplement called Androstenedione for more than one year up to that point, according to an Associated Press report published by CNN/SI in 1998.  Although use the supplement was not prohibited by Major League Baseball at the time, the moral questions and scrutiny which arose in subsequent years in reaction to the fact that a sports icon was using a performance enhancing drug already banned in the National Football League led to the uncovering of one of baseball’s most widespread scandals in recent decades and raised serious questions as to the legitimacy of individual achievements of players engaging in steroid use.

Today, baseball’s single season and career home run record leader in the all-time record books—Barry Bonds—is known to have used performance enhancing substances now banned by Major League Baseball during his pursuit of what for a time had been McGwire’s single season record and his later pursuit of Henry Aaron’s all-time mark of 755 career home runs.  Although less is known regarding his steroid use and it is believed that he did not engage in the use of performance enhancing drugs to the same degree as Bonds, McGwire and many others, the fact that Alex Rodriguez admittedly used performance enhancing drugs, combined with the secretive nature of much of Major League Baseball regarding the trend at the time during which Rodriguez admitted to using casts a similar shadow of doubt upon his career numbers.

Many fans and analysts who have followed the career of Alex Rodriguez agree that it is not unlikely that he could challenge what is currently Barry Bonds’ all-time career home run record of 762 home runs; but regardless of whether or not Rodriguez surpasses Bonds’ milestone, the significance of such an accomplishment will always remain shadowed by doubt in light of the fact that all parties engaged in the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs during their careers.  It will most likely take many years, if not many decades, before baseball sees an eclipse of its single season or all time home run record whose legitimacy will not remain clouded by such doubt.

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