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Aaron Judge and the Home Run Record: What It Means For Drug Use In Sports

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Tulane chapter.

On Tuesday, October 4th of 2022, Aaron Judge broke the single-season home run record in the American League with 62 home runs. Before Judge, the record was held by Roger Maris with 61 home runs in 1961 and before Maris, the record was held by Babe Ruth with 60 home runs in 1927. Although these players all belong to the New York Yankees, that is not the only thing they have in common… they didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs. 

The rise of rookie Aaron Judge and his phenomenal performance in his most recent season has brought about debates concerning the true meaning of breaking a record. Before Judge, the top players who were breaking records and making it into the Hall of Fame had admitted to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. PEDs became prevalent in the “Steroid Era” of baseball beginning around the 1970s with their popularity increasing in the 80s and 90s. The use of PEDs became more obvious as players began to improve at suspiciously fast rates. One season they would hit 10 home runs and the next they would bang out 35. People began to question how such players could suddenly perform better than they had over their entire careers. Among these suspicious players were Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa. Their sudden outstanding performances only started with the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which raises the question of whose careers and records we should truly consider. Players like Aaron Judge, who have made great strides naturally, should receive more recognition for their achievements because their accomplishments are a reflection of their talent, not the steroids pumping through their veins.  

Prior to 2003, the MLB did not test for steroids even though the ban on these performance-enhancing drugs began in the early 1990s. Many people were in favor of the ban since the exposure of PEDs within the MLB called certain careers into question. The ones who were administering these drugs, whether it be the players themselves or their trainers as well as doctors who distributed them, faced legal troubles. Not everyone faced repercussions, but one of the infamous trainers of Roger Clemmens who aided in the administration of steroids came to the same conclusion as most of the baseball-loving public: players who test positive for PEDs should be prohibited from the Hall of Fame. Within the Steroid Era players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemmens were able to rattle the world of baseball, however, their confession to the use of PEDs leaves many people claiming their accomplishments are illegitimate. In my opinion, no player should be admitted into the Hall of Fame and join legends like Babe Ruth and Yogi Berra if they could only break records under the influence of steroids. I understand that their careers are still something that could be celebrated and honored, but not held to the same status as players who didn’t have to use PEDs to get to where they are. There have been movements to include them in the Hall of Fame with an asterisk next to their name, but I believe it is disrespectful to the players who made it there naturally to be placed on the same level of the totem pole. Not only would it be shameful, but it would be an encouragement to current players that abusing PEDs can be a gateway into the Hall of Fame. 

The implication of generating criteria for Hall of Fame admittance spans beyond just the world of MLB, but into the collegiate and high school levels as well. When adolescents and emerging adults perceive major league players as role models, it can be extremely detrimental to their behaviors and confidence to witness the use of steroids. It can set impossible standards for others to compare to and signals to younger athletes that the end goal is more important than how you get there. We can even see these issues within the recent Olympics where a 15-year-old Russian ice skater tested positive for illegal drugs used to improve her performance. Any athlete is constantly striving to be the best in their field, and the use of PEDs crosses a dangerous boundary that transforms a hobby or career into a possible fatality or injury since we have yet to explore the long-term effects and examine the havoc such drugs can wreak on the human body when abused for so long. Creating a world where there is no inspiration for players to use performance-enhancing drugs starts with the condemnation of our “idols” in the past and praise for people like Aaron Judge who break records with raw talent. 

Stephanie is a sophomore at Tulane University. She is double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology as well as minoring in Chemistry. When she's not writing you can find her sipping an oat milk latte at Mojo or shopping on Magazine Street!