Performance enhancing drugs by definition give human and equine athletes alike a competitive edge.  Major League Baseball’s before and after eras of league-wide testing and punitive sanctions for steroid use vividly illuminate the distorting effects of PEDs on athletic achievements.

MLB banned steroids in 1991, but did not adopt league-wide testing for PEDs until 2003, and penalties for violations were not implemented until the 2006 season.  Though urine testing was not foolproof (for example, it could not detect usage of human growth hormones) the reduction in steroid use alone seems to have contributed significantly to the downward trend in offensive production statistics since 2006.

MLB expanded to 30 teams for the 1998 season. In the years 1998-2005, prior to introduction of penalties for banned drug use, the average number of regular-season home runs hit per year was 5,310, compared to 4,801 per year in 2006-2014.  The top-six all-time records for the most home runs hit in a single regular season are held by three players tainted by alleged steroid use and came in 1998, 1999, and 2001.  Barry Bonds is the record-holder with 73 home runs.  By contrast, the most regular-season home runs hit by a player since 2006 is 54 and the leader for 2014 hit 40.

In 2014, MLB adopted the Carbon Isotope Mass Spectrometry test that can detect PEDs used within a two-week period rather than 24 hours and also made its drug-use penalties even harsher.

MLB’s PED-testing and sanctions on players that violate the rules suggest that an aggressive industry-wide collaboration in American horse racing to clamp down on PEDs, including race-day furosemide, would ultimately yield a cleaner sport–and a truer picture of the natural ability and durability of racehorses, especially the ones selected to propagate the breed.

Copyright © 2014 Blood-Horse Publications. Used with permission.