Athletes, Leagues and Drug Use


Ethical Issues are always a concern in society, but maybe not more so that in the world of professional sports. Winning is required! And how you get there doesn’t always matter. Students in our Sport Leadership course looked at the issues related to MLB and commented on whether or not they thought MLB and MLBPA applied ethical decision making in the 1990’s when the records began falling and the drug use became rampant. Read a few of their responses below.

By: Brandon Craig

This is an interesting topic and I am looking forward to discussing it and hearing others opinions. My thoughts on the use of performance enhancing drugs are often a mixed batch. I think that as professional athletes, the gap between being good/great/elite is so small that players are willing to go to great links to separate themselves. Even if this means bending or breaking rules. I am not at all saying I condone cheating, I DO NOT, what I am saying is I can understand what might bring someone to making that decision. I also tend to believe that the drug testing measures and protocols in all major professional sports is one massive cat and mouse game. New drugs are always being created and used to enhance performance. Ones that are not currently blacklisted. This is often followed by the leagues catching up and banning more and more substances. In my opinion, it Is to much to keep up with. So I tend to just turn a blind eye and not care.

To the question regarding whether or not the MLB and MLBPA applied or failed to apply the ethical guidelines from chapter one in our book, I can see arguments from all sides honestly. It really just boils down to how one actual views what is ethical and what isn’t. I believe that the MLB and MLBPA both recognized that there was an issue with PED’s. I don’t think either side knew exactly what to do with that information. So they both did what most people would do and just sat on it, almost hoping it would go away. When they realized that it was not, the MLB decided they were going to look like the “good guy” and implement a new drug testing protocol. It doesn’t work like that it profession sports unfortunately. So eventually the two parties made a decision, tested it, and acted in a way that they could agree on. So they did apply some of the ethical guidelines, but in my opinion still failed to accurately and effectively address the problem.

Yes, I do believe the MLBPA was ethical in its resistance to a drug testing program. The reason I believe this is because of the CBA. The Collective Bargaining agreement. Most of us have heard or witnessed labor strikes due to a disagreement during these negotiations. If the MLBPA and MLB had an agreed upon system in place, and when it was time to revisit and create and new CBA, then the MLBPA has every right to BARGAIN! That is the point of these discussions whether it is over money, free agency, contracts, or drug testing programs. Both sides sit down and go back and forth until an agreement it made. To me, it is not unethical for them to resist a drug testing program if the MLB was unwilling to agree to something else as well. Prior to that, if the MLB did have knowledge of wide spread PED use in their league and chose to do nothing about it, then I would say that it unethical yes. From the standpoint that they had knowledge and did nothing about it because they wanted more money. Money does drive people to make poor and unethical decisions. Our book describes ethical decisions as ones made by principled decision making. “The desire and ability to engage in principled decision making often distinguishes superior sport managers from their peers. Principled decision making is basing decisions on the six pillars of character–trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.” (Pedersen & Thibault 2014) I do not believe that the MLB made ethical or principled decisions.

The key word for me in the last question is “IF”. I think it is widely assumed and accepted that the MLB knew full-well that there was wide spread use but it is extremely hard to prove who knew what. But if we assume that they did know, no it is not ethical for them to withhold information or any attempts to change the culture, only to reel in more customers. Again I go back to the notion that money drives many terrible decisions and greed can change people. However unethical, I really can understand why they would ever do that though. We live in an age when people want excitement and they want it now. High scoring games in all sports is the desire for nearly all patrons. Whether that is home runs, 50 yard plus touchdowns in the NFL, or ten goals a game in the NHL, fans are different now than they have ever been. According to and article on, “After a ho-hum regular season and so-so post season, the NHL has to find a way to boost scoring for fans, who are foaming at the mouth for more goals. Lucky for the league, there’s an easy way to do it: change the icing rule.” (Shaker) So if the fans are getting what they want, who is really concerned about PED usage? Allowing it to happen, and doing nothing about it is absolutely unethical and a black mark on whatever sport it is happening it. As long as fans are the consumer and continue to pay billions of dollars to be entertained, there are going to be sports managers who both bend and break conventional ethics.

Pedersen, P. M., & Thibault, L. (2014). Contemporary sport management(5th ed.).

Shuker, R. (n.d.). This radical rule change would increase scoring in the NHL. Retrieved February 23, 2017, from

By: Erica Cora

In what way did MLB and MLBPA leaders apply (or fail to apply) the ethical guidelines presented in chapter 1?

The ethical decision guidelines are listed as recognizing an ethical issue, get the facts, evaluate alternative actions, make a decision and test it, and finally to act and reflect on the outcome (Pedersen, 2014). The MLB and MLBPA leaders failed to apply the ethical guidelines. I think that their ideas of ethical issues were corrupted. Rather than considering fair play and sportsmanship and the example that they and the professional sport athletes are to fans, leadership took only the facts that were known about the business. The leaders did not recognize that there was an ethical issue because based on the facts that they were concerned with, the drugs were creating a profitable business.

Using your knowledge of ethical decision-making, was the MLBPA being ethical when it resisted a drug-testing program? What about management?

Something that interests me about the first point of recognizing ethical issues in the ethical guidelines is: what is an ethical issue? The point states “Could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group? Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad group” (Pedersen, 2014)? If I simple look at this first consideration of ethics to determine if there in an issue here, I would agree that MLB and MLBPA leaders failed to take appropriate actions. However, if the leaders felt that rather than being damaging to a group of people, that the drugs would create more success for the business, fame and fortune for the athletes, are positives, then the argument could be made that there was no ethical issue, based on the first point alone. By resisting the drug-testing program management and the MLBPA were ensuring that success came from the performance produced by the use of these drugs.

If owners and baseball executives were truly aware of performance-enhancing drug use in the mid- to late 1990s, was it ethical to ignore this circumstance while millions flocked to baseball stadiums to see incredible displays of offensive skill?

It is clearly not ethical to ignore the use of performance enhancing drugs while millions flocked to watch the baseball games. This is because we are now considering the viewers of the game as an individual factor. Being in the spotlight, management should have considered how their fans would interpret their use of performance-enhancing drugs (regardless of if they could argue it not being an ethical issue). As far back as 2003, there have been arrests and serious consequences to the use of drugs in professional sport (Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports, 2017). Because the use of steroids and other drugs are illegal, I would consider them to be unethical, as should the management. Therefore, if the baseball executives were truly aware of the illegal activities, it would have been unethical to ignore it.


Pedersen, P. M. & Thibault, L. (Eds.). (2014). Contemporary sport management (5th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports. (2017, January 26). Retrieved February 23, 2017, from

By: Kristen Long

The MLB and MLBPA failed to apply the ethical guidelines for a while because they knew that some players were using steroids. They did not want them to get caught because they were bringing in more fans, more records were being broken, and more money was being made overall. I believe that the MLBPA was not making ethical decisions. I think that players should be drug tested and the MLBPA was banning that, which is unfair. The reason I believe it is so wrong is because anyone can take steroids and become stronger. Why should these professional baseball players be given millions/billions of dollars when they are being dishonest and cheating? What kind of role models will kids look up to? Should those records count? “While just three players reached the 50-home run mark in any season between 1961 and 1994, many sluggers would start to surpass that number in the mid-90s” (ESPN). I think that all programs were dishonest and trying to hide the fact that some players were doing drugs just to get more money. It’s not fair and it is unethical. “Widespread use by players of such substances unfairly disadvantages the honest athletes who refuse to use them and raises questions about the validity of baseball records” (Mitchel, SR-8). This poses a problem for other baseball players and future baseball players that want to become professionals. If they cannot reach the goals of then does that mean they will be looked at as not very good? This is why it is important to drug test athletes. I also disagree when there was suspicion of drug use in the 90’s and nothing was done about it. How is this fair to other players who do not to this? I think if there was a hint of any use of drugs then management and MLBPA, MLB should have looked into it. Maybe the problem would have been better avoided in the early 2000s if done so.



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