Steroid Nation

Slate’s coverage of drugs and sports.

Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, testified this week as part of the latest Congressional investigation into performance-enhancing drugs and baseball. Josh Levin covered the hearing and argued that Clemens didn’t win over any skeptics with his unconvincing testimony.

Hart Seely recognized the pitcher’s inner Frost by publishing poetry that Clemens didn’t even realize he’d written. Stephen Metcalf says Clemens’ appearance revealed more about the ineptitude of Congress than the guilt of the witnesses. Douglas McCollam grabs hold of a catchphrase spoken by McNamee—”it is what it is”—and examines what, exactly, it is.

Before this week’s hearing, Bonnie Goldstein published a letter from Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House oversight and government reform committee, to Clemens’ lawyers. Levin also got nostalgic when a congressional hearing earlier this year lacked the one-and-only Jose Canseco. Juliet Lapidos explains why Clemens would take a B-12 shot in the first place.

Mitchell released his report on steroids and baseball in January. (You can read the whole thing in PDF form.) The report names names—including Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds—and blames Major League Baseball for its slow response to the game’s drug problem. On the day of its release, Slate writers and editors dissected the Mitchell report. Check out the “Steroids Social Network” to see how the players in the Mitchell report are connected.

Jose Canseco’s book was one of the first shots across baseball’s bow in 2005. Bryan Curtis wrote that Canseco’s memoir, Juiced, was best read as a love story between Canseco and steroids. Josh Levin relayed word from Congress that it was a different Bash Brother, Mark McGwire, who took the heat at a committee hearing. Levin and Rachael Larimore compiled a list of athletes’ excuses for failing drug tests.

Baseball isn’t the only sport that’s wrestled with steroids. Steve Chapman explained that the NFL went through its own steroid scandal in 1986. Daniel Engber dissected controversial studies to figure out whether middle-school girls were really taking as many steroids as the reports claimed.

William Saletan claimed steroids weren’t that big of a deal as long as they didn’t harm the body. Engber cautioned that the hubbub over human growth hormone may be for naught—as opposed to anabolic steroids, HGH may not do anything to help athletic performance. Not to mention that it’s hard to detect. Michelle Tsai, meanwhile, wrote that it is possible HGH made Barry Bonds’ head bigger.

Jeff Pearlman wanted to know why baseball players were still getting free passes from journalists after the congressional hearings. Charles P. Pierce, on the other hand, asked why we get worked up over steroids in the first place. They weren’t against the rules at the time, so who cares? Well, they can be dangerous: Michelle Tsai explored how professional wrestler Chris Benoit’s murder-suicide could have been caused by ” ’roid rage.’ “

But without Dr. John Bosley Ziegler, none of this would be possible. Justin Peters gave a history lesson on the doctor who created steroids and the impact the drugs first had on the muscle-building world.