Baseball Great Jim Bunning: Steroid Users Have No Place in Hall of Fame

Genuine baseball stars feel cheated by enhanced stats. Besides, the kids are watching.

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Hall of Famer Jim Bunning played major league baseball from 1955 through 1971, pitching primarily for the Detroit Tigers and the Philadelphia Phillies. He is currently a U.S. senator from Kentucky.

Being elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a player. There are more than 200 former Major League players in the Hall of Fame and we will welcome three more this coming weekend when Ricky Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe Gordon are inducted. The Hall of Fame is filled with baseball greats who set their records through nothing more than a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. They worked hard to get where they are today and if you want to know how they feel about sharing the stage with players who took shortcuts to beat their records, just go to the Hall of Fame dinner on Sunday night. The message is simple—cheaters need not apply.

During my 17 years as a professional ballplayer, I had no personal experience with steroids. But I did know of ballplayers who sharpened their spikes, corked their bats, and even scuffed some balls. They all broke the rules, and when they were caught they were punished. The same goes for today's players who in some cases have abused drugs to enhance their performance.

There is also a great sense of responsibility that comes with being a member of the Hall of Fame. Whether major league players like it or not, they serve as role models to our nation's youth, who look up to them and want to one day be like them. If players who cheat to gain entrance into baseball's most elite club are given a free pass, it sends a terrible message to our nation's young athletes that it is OK to cheat. I don't think that's right. When I was a kid, I was taught that if you really wanted something in life you had to work hard to get it. There are no shortcuts in life.

But kids see home runs blasted like cannons and they want to feel that thrill and accomplish that feat for themselves. So they emulate these professional athletes any way they can. The competition in junior high and high school sports is tough and too many kids take the route of the needle and pill to get any edge they can over their opponents.

Steroids have been illegal in the United States since 1990 when Congress passed the Anabolic Steroids Act, yet Major League Baseball chose to ignore the problem for nearly 15 years, leading to what is now known as the steroid era.

Over the last four years, Major League Baseball has taken serious steps in an effort to rid the game of these performance-enhancing drugs and punish those players who are caught cheating, but it is an ongoing battle to stay ahead of the drug makers. As methods are developed to test for various types of drugs, new drugs pop up that are not as easily detected, for example human growth hormone, or HGH. While doctors are working on it, there is still no reliable way to test for HGH. Until there is a test for it, I believe that there will always be players who try to cheat the system. 

I think many of today's players do not understand that many others came before them, and even more will come after them. And all baseball players past and present have an obligation to protect the integrity of the greatest game ever invented. If there is no integrity, then there is no game.

When I played ball with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams, they didn't put on 40 pounds of bulk in their careers, and they didn't hit more homers in their late thirties than they did in their late twenties. It's disturbing to see that trend today. Baseball has to follow the rules just like everyone else.

Major League Baseball must set an example so that children and young athletes don't see steroids as a way to get ahead of the competition. If a player is caught using banned substances in an effort to break records set by players who achieved them through honest hard work, I think those numbers should be expunged from the record books. There is no place for cheaters in the Hall of Fame.