Skip to content. Skip to main navigation.

Fall 2014

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

Foul ball

Baseball's Steroid Economy

Historian contends that business, not morality, is to blame for the use of performance-enhancing drugs among athletes 

baseball illustration

Major League Baseball players who use steroids to gain an advantage may be breaking the rules, but are they breaking the moral code as well? Not necessarily, says labor and disability historian Sarah Rose, whose article “Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit, and the Body as Commodity, 1964-2007” suggests that the question raised by steroids is not about the players’ morality, but rather about baseball’s.

“Why has professional baseball players’ steroid use been characterized as an immoral, illegitimate bodily enhancement, when other medical interventions—such as ‘Tommy John’ elbow reconstruction surgery—have been celebrated as career-saving cures?" writes Dr. Rose in the paper, which was co-authored by Joshua Salzmann, assistant professor of history at Northeastern Illinois University. “While admittedly different, both bodily interventions arose out of the same dramatic shifts in the business of baseball—shifts that drove the medicalization of the game and players’ bodies.”

As the researchers contend, before the advent of salary arbitration and free agency in the 1960s and ’70s, baseball players were disposable parts in a high-risk work environment. But once the sport adopted those player-friendly policies, exploding television revenues helped drive the athletes’ salaries into the millions, transforming baseball’s economy of bodily management and prompting players and owners to investigate new ways to preserve and, eventually, enhance the athletes’ bodies.

“Baseball is representative of the fact that Americans increasingly live in an age of biotechnology in which bodily modification for profit has become the norm and, often, an unstated job requirement,” Rose explains.

By attacking individual players’ morality, commentators have obscured this more salient issue.

“Enticed by the prospect of riches, players and teams harnessed fitness training, reconstructive surgery, biomechanical analysis, and performance-enhancing drugs to reduce wear and tear on players’ bodies and, ultimately, radically alter them for profit,” Rose and Dr. Salzmann write. “This interplay between economic incentives and medicine created what we call bionic ballplayers: bigger, stronger, and at times, more fragile than their predecessors.”

The pair interviewed notable sports figures such as Nolan Ryan and Bob Costas, along with a wide array of baseball players, team physicians, trainers, general managers, agents, and union officials with careers dating to the mid-1960s. Their paper was published in the academic journal LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas.


More articles from this issue

UT Arlington - Office of Research