A chronological list of the major events of Baseball’s Steroid Era including legislation, Congressional Hearings, the BALCO scandal, steroid user admissions, and the implementation of Major League Baseball’s testing program. This timeline lists events as they were made public.
Nov. 18, 1988 – Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988
This law amended the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and created criminal penalties for persons who “distribute or possess anabolic steroids with the intent to distribute for any use in humans other than the treatment of disease based on the order of a physician.” Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-690, Section 4181.
Oct. 5, 1990 – 1990 Anabolic Steroids Control Act
Believing that the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 legislation was insufficient, Congress quickly replaced it with the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990.
Jun. 7, 1991 – Commissioner Fay Vincent Issues Memo Regarding Steroid Use
After the U.S. Congress raises penalties for steroid possession, Commissioner Fay Vincent sends a memo to each team indicating that steroids would be added to Major League Baseball’s banned list. The memo stated: “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited … This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs … including steroids.” The seven-page document didn’t include a testing plan — that had to be bargained with the union — but it did outline treatment and penalties.
May 7, 1992 – The FBI Steroid Sting – Operation Equine
Curtis Wenzlaff was arrested May 7, 1992 for steroid distribution charges. The FBI found steroid regiments related to Mark McGwire. Years later, Wenzlaff admitted publically to helping Canseco go from a novice user to steroid guru but refuses to discuss McGwire.
Oct. 25, 1994 – Supplements Industry Deregulated by U.S. Government
Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act passes, deregulates supplements industry.
Jul. 1995 – Randy Smith, Tony Gwynn and Jason Giambi Discuss Steroids with LA Times
Padres GM Randy Smith tells LA Times, “We all know there’s steroid use, and it is definitely becoming more prevalent.” In the same article, Expos GM Kevin Malone calls steroids “the secret we’re not supposed to talk about,” and Tony Gwynn estimates 30% of players using. Giambi says he’s heavier, stronger, and able to stay that way, then praises McGwire for his influence.
Aug. 22, 1998 – Mark McGwire and Androstenedione
A jar of androstenedione is discovered in the locker of St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, who is neck and neck with Sammy Sosa in the great chase at Roger Maris’ all-time record of 61 homers hit during the 1961 season. McGwire admits he uses the steroids precursor and goes on to hit a then record 70 homers. Using steroids, precursors or performance-enhancing drugs is not illegal at that point in Major League Baseball.
April 3, 2000 – ‘Gen XXL’ Implies Steroid Use in Early 1990s
In one of the first major media analyses of steroid use in baseball, Jeff Bradely described an encounter his brother, Scott, had with a former player who said that if he were still playing he would be using steroids. The article for ESPN Magazine said Scott never used steroids and was out of baseball within a couple of years.
Jun. 30, 2000 – Manny Alexander and Carlos Cowart
Carlos Cowart is pulled over driving Manny Alexander’s Mercedes. Cowart is taken into custody due to a previous warrant and the car is impounded and then searched. Police found vials of steroids and syringes in the glove compartment. A decision was made not to pursue the steroid charges against Cowart, a clear indication the police believed they were not his. Instead they pursued only the items from the previous warrant, driving without a license and failing to stop.
Apr. 2001 – MLB Implements Minor League Testing
MLB unilaterally implements its first random drug-testing program in the Minor Leagues. All players outside the 40-man roster of each Major League club are subject to random testing for steroid-based, performance enhancing drugs, plus drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine). The penalties are 15 games for a first positive test, 30 games for a second, 60 games for a third, and one year for a fourth. A fifth offense earns a ban from professional baseball for life.
Jun. 18, 2002 – U.S. Senate Tells Selig, Fehr to Negotiate Testing
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-Ariz) tell Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association executive director Don Fehr that a strict drug testing program at the Major League level must be negotiated during collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, which is about to expire. Up to this point, no MLB player can be tested for drug use without probable cause. Fehr tells the committee that the Congress should enact laws to ban over-the-counter sales of performance-enhancing substances.
Aug. 30, 2002 – MLB Unveils ‘Survey’ Testing For 2003
MLB and the union unveil Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as an addendum to the new Basic Agreement, which is bargained at the 11th hour just as the players are about to go out on strike. The new policy calls for “Survey Testing” in 2003 to gauge the use of steroids among players on the 40-man rosters of each club. The tests will be anonymous and no one will be punished.
Feb. 17, 2003 – Steve Bechler, 23, Dies from Heat Exhaustion
Steve Bechler, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher, collapses on the field in Florida during a Spring Training workout and dies from heat exhaustion. He is 23 years old. An autopsy showed that the over-the-counter, performance-enhancing drug, Ephedra, was found in his system and was considered by the medical examiner as the primary cause of Bechler’s death. Subsequently, MLB places Ephedra on the list of banned drugs at the Minor League level and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans it from over-the-counter sales
Mar. 1, 2003 – MLB Survey Testing Begins
Drug testing begins in Major League Spring Training camps. Some teams, including the Chicago White Sox, consider balking at taking the tests to skew the results. A refusal to participate in the “Survey” phase is considered a positive test. That first year, all MLB players on the 40-man rosters are subject to be randomly tested once. In addition, MLB had the right to retest up to 240 players a second time by the end of the season. All players ultimately complied and took the tests.
Oct. 29, 2003 – FDA Bans THG, MLB Follows Suit
The FDA bans THG. The next day MLB places the designer drug on its testing list for the 2004 season, but is barred by its own agreement from retroactively re-testing the 2003 urine samples for THG traces.
Nov. 13, 2003 – MLB Announces 5 to 7 Percent of Players Fail Survey Testing
MLB announced that 5-to-7 percent of 1,438 tests were positive during the 2003 season, well above the threshold, setting in motion mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs with punishments for the first time in Major League history. The first positive test put a player on a medical track that includes treatment and further testing. Otherwise, there’s no punitive for a first positive test.
Dec. 2003 – Ten MLB Players to Testify before BALCO Grand Jury
Ten Major League players, including Barry Bonds of the Giants, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, are to testify in front of a San Francisco grand jury investigating the machinations of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), owned and operated by Victor Conte. None of the players are charged with using performance-enhancing drugs, although four men, including Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds’ personal trainer and childhood friend, are indicted for tax evasion and selling steroids without prescriptions.
Mar. 10, 2004 – Senate Commerce Committee has Hearing, Begins Legislative Process
The Senate Commerce Committee holds another hearing. Selig and Fehr again appear to testify. They are told in no uncertain terms that MLB’s current drug policy is not strong enough. McCain says: “Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies,” thus setting the legislative process in motion.
Apr. 8, 2004 – BALCO Grand Jury Subpoena’s Major League Baseball’s Anonymous Test Results
The grand jury presiding over the BALCO case issues a subpoena to obtain the results of all the drug tests collected from Major League players during the 2003 season. After negotiations by the union, which argues that the subpoena is violating privacy rights afforded to the players in the Joint Drug Agreement, the drug tests are turned over.
May 11, 2004 – MLB Moves Testing and Samples to World Anti-Doping Agency
MLB and the Players Association agree to move all of the collection of urine samples and drug testing for both the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) facilities in Montreal and Los Angeles.
Jun. 2004 – MLB Begins Steroid Testing, Counseling, Anonymity, for 1st Offense
MLB begins drug testing Major League players under the punitive phase of the Joint Drug Agreement. The program includes anonymity and counseling as punishment for a first offence.
Oct. 22, 2004 – The Anabolic Steroid Control Act
President Bush signs into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 that the U.S. Congress passed earlier in the month. The bill added hundreds of steroid-based drugs and precursors such as androstenedione to the list of anabolic steroids that are classified as Schedule III controlled substances, which are banned from over-the-counter sales without a prescription. By virtue of MLB’s own agreement with the union, all of the drugs banned by Congress are now on baseball’s own banned list.
Nov. 2004 – The BALCO Transcripts are Leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle
The San Francisco Chronicle prints portions of leaked grand jury testimony given the previous year by Bonds and Giambi. Giambi reportedly admits injecting himself with steroids and Bonds reportedly says he unwittingly may have allowed his former trainer, Anderson, to rub cream that had a steroid base on his legs.
Jan. 13, 2005 – Players and Owners Agree to New Drug Program, Names to be Made Public
During a quarterly owners’ meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., the owners vote unanimously to accept recently concluded negotiations between MLB and the union strengthening the drug program. The new punitive measures for Major Leaguers are a 10-day suspension for the first positive test, 30 days for the second, 60 days for the third, and one year for the fourth. All without pay. On the first positive, the players name is released to the public. The program is separated from the Basic Agreement, which expires on Dec. 19, 2006, and is extended until 2008.
Feb. 14, 2005 – Juiced, Jose Canseco’s Autobiography, Steroid Tell-All Released
Jose Canseco’s new “tell all” book about his life in baseball using steroids and sharing them with some of his former teammates, hits the stores. The revelations are widely played in the media and carried by CBS in two segments of 60 Minutes during which the former Oakland A’s slugger claims he helped inject teammates McGwire, Giambi Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, among others.
Mar. 5, 2005 – Selig Announces 1-2% of Players Fail Tests in 2004
Selig announces the results of the 2004 drug tests in Mesa, Ariz. Selig says he’s “startled” by the drop in positive test results from 5-to-7 percent in 2003 to between 1 to 2 percent in 2004. The actual numbers were 12 positive tests in 1,183. No player tested positively twice, so under the rules of the old program, they were neither suspended nor had their names released.
Mar. 8, 2005 – Reform Committee Requests, Then Subpoenas MLB Players and Executives
The House Government Reform Committee calls a hearing in Washington to hear testimony from MLB executives, plus current and former players about steroid use in MLB. At first, the government sends out invitations, which are turned down by the various parties. The Committee then issues subpoenas, which are fought by MLB. In the end, all agree to attend, including Canseco, McGwire, Curt Schilling, Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and Sosa, plus Selig, Fehr, Alderson and Padres general manager Kevin Towers.
Mar. 17, 2005 – McGwire Refuses to Talk, Palmeiro Denies Use to Reform Committee
At the 11-hour hearing that is sometimes contentious, Congressmen again tell MLB and union officials to beef up their drug program “or we we’ll do it for you,” said Henry Waxman, the committee’s top Democrat. “And you don’t want that.” McGwire, almost in tears at times, tells the Committee that he has been advised by his attorneys not to discuss the issue. “My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family or myself. I intend to follow their advice.” Palmeiro vehemently denies ever having used steroids, and Sammy Sosa’s lawyer reads a statement saying that Sosa has never done steroids or anything against the law in the United States or the Dominican Republic.
Apr. 3, 2005 – Alex Sanchez Tests Positive, First Major Leaguer Suspended
Tampa Bay’s Alex Sanchez becomes the first big league player to test positively under the new Joint Drug Program. He is suspended for 10 days.
Apr. 4, 2005 – MLB Announces 38 Minor Leaguers Test Positive
MLB announces that 38 Minor Leaguers all tested positive for steroid use. Most of them were suspended for 15 games. By the end of the month, more than 50 Minor Leaguers have been suspended. The tally for all of 2005 was a staggering 82.
May 3, 2005 – Tom House Admits to Steroid Use in 1970’s
Former pitcher, Tom House, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle admits to a failed experiment with steroids and claimed 6 or 7 pitchers on every staff were fiddling with steroids or hGH in the seventies. House attributed steroid use at that time to the general prevalance of the drug culture in the 1960s and 1970s.
May 13, 2005 – Committee Hears Evidence on Legislation to Regulate Testing
A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls the Commissioners and union leaders from all five professional sports leagues to testify at two days of hearings to discuss a proposed bill that would regulate the testing of players for steroid and amphetamine use. Among the proposals under consideration are penalties that match international and Olympic rules: a two-year suspension for the first positive test and a lifetime ban for the second.
May 18, 2005 – Reform Committee to Intervene, Set Testing Standards
Selig, the NHL’s Gary Bettman, the NBA’s David Stern and the MLS’s Don Garber appear before the subcommittee, which again tells them that the government is ready to intervene and set standards for drug testing in all professional sports. “In a perfect world I’d rather this just be done in collective bargaining or voluntary acceptance by the players in respective sports,” said Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.).”But obviously we don’t live in a perfect world. And in this case we need federal intervention. I think we’ve gone too long.”
May 24, 2005 – Reform Committee Floats bill Calling for Olympic-type Testing
The House Government Reform Committee floats a bill also supported in the Senate by McCain. The new bill also calls for Olympic-type penalties of a two-year suspension for a first positive drug test and a lifetime ban for a second. The next day, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passes its bill out of the subcommittee.
Aug. 1, 2005 – Rafael Palmeiro Tests Positive for Stanozolol
Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is suspended for 10 days by Major League Baseball for violating its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He denies any intentional use of steroids. Later Palmeiro suggested his positive test may have been the result of a tainted vitamin B12 shot he got from Miguel Tejada.
Nov. 10, 2005 – Congress Declines to seek Perjury Charges Against Palmeiro
A Congressional subcommittee decided to not seek perjury charges against Rafael Palmeiro following its investigation of the player’s emphatic Capitol Hill statement that he had not used steroids.
Nov. 15, 2005 – MLB, Players Agree to New Testing Program, Penalties – 50, 100, Life
Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on Tuesday on a plan that significantly strengthens penalties for steroid and other illegal drug use. Penalties for steroid use will be 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. For the first time the plan also includes testing and suspensions for amphetamine use.
Mar. 23, 2006 – Game of Shadows Released, Details Massive Doping Conspiracy in Track, Baseball, Football
The book, by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, expanded their reports in the San Fransisco Chronicle in 2004 about the dealings of the Bay Area Labratory Co-op (BALCO). Citing mainly the leaked BALCO transcripts and court documents, the reporters pieced together the massive steroid conspiracy involving ‘undectable’ designer steroids, sophisticated training programs, and the supplement industry.
Apr. 13, 2006 – U.S. Government Investigating Bonds for Perjury and Tax Evasion
Multiple media reports say the U.S. government has begun investing Barry Bonds for possible perjury and tax-evasion charges. The case would prove difficult without the testimony of Bonds’ trainer, Greg Anderson who twice went to jail rather than answer questions about Bonds.
Jun. 7, 2006 – Feds Raid Jason Grimsley’s Home, Admits Use, Names Others
Federal IRS agents raided the Arizona home of Jason Grimsley. Grimsley admitted using performance enhancing drugs and gave investigators the names of current and former major leaguers who have also used performance-enhancing drugs. He began cooperating with probers after he accepted a $3200 shipment of hGH at his Scottsdale residence on April 19, but his cooperation lasted only one week, until investigators tried to get him to wear a wire and gather evidence against other players including Barry Bonds.
Jun. 21, 2006 – Paxton Crawford Admits Steroid and hGH Use
In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Crawford admits using steroids and hGH during the 2000 and 2001 seasons while playing for the Boston Red Sox. In the interview, Crawford said steroids ‘had a hold of the game’ and that players were ‘walking around like zombies.’
Jun. 18, 2006 – David Segui Admits to Using hGH ‘Legally’
David Segui went on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and revealed that he was one of the redacted names from the Jason Grimsley affidavit. Segui claimed his drug use only consisted of hGH, was legal, obtained with a prescription, but never reported his use to Major League Baseball.
Sept. 21, 2006 – Game of Shadows’ Authors Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison For Failing to Reveal Source of BALCO Leaks
San Fransisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who together published excerpts from the BALCO transcripts in 2004, were sentenced to 18 months in prison for not revealing their source to the grand jury on August 15. The 18 months represents the length of a typical grand jury term. Williams and Fainaru-Wada do not have to report to prison pending their appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Oct. 1, 2006– Redacted Names From Grimsley Affidavit Leaked, Clemens, Pettitte, Tejada, Roberts, Gibbons
The Los Angeles Times said an anonymous source with access to the unedited version of the Grimsley affidavit let the newspaper view it, but didn’t provide a copy. The Times said a second source who had identified the other players provided additional details about the document. Grimsley reportedly acquired steroids, hGH, and amphetamines from a source referred to him by Brian McNamee, strength and conditioning coach for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The affidavit also states that Grimsley told federal agents that former Orioles teammates Migeul Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons all “took anabolic steroids.”
Feb. 21, 2007– Troy Ellerman Admitted Leaking BALCO Documents: Game of Shadows’ Authors Avoid Jail
Troy Ellerman, former lawyer for BALCO president, Victor Conte, admitted to being the source of the BALCO grand jury documents leaked to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-wada. Ellerman agreed to plead guilty to four felony counts of obstruction of justice and disobeying court orders, to spend up to two years in prison and pay a fine of $250,000. As part of the plea, federal prosecutors will cease all attempts to put the reporters in jail for failing to reveal Ellerman as the leak.