Pete, the minor league steroid user, says, "I've talked to doctors. They've studied [steroids], and they know if you don't abuse them, they can help you. As long as you don't go crazy with them, like Alzado, you should be fine."
Says Curtis, who estimates that 40% to 50% of major leaguers use steroids, "There are two things that might stop a person from using steroids: a moral obligation—they're illegal—and a fear of the medical complications. I was 100 percent against the use of steroids. But I must tell you, I would not fear the medical side of it. I fully agree you can take them safely."
Rogers also opposes steroid use on ethical grounds, but understands why it is so tempting. "My belief is that God gave you a certain amount of ability, and I don't want to enhance it by doing something that is not natural and creates an unfair advantage. I'm critical of guys who do it," he says. "On the other hand if I were 22 or 21 and trying to make it in baseball, I can't say for sure that I wouldn't try something when I plainly see the benefits other guys are getting. I can't say I'm 100 percent positive I wouldn't resort to that."
The first generation of ballplayers who have grown up in the steroid culture is only now arriving, biceps bulging, chests shaven and buttocks tender. The acceptance level of steroids in the game may very well continue rising until...until what? A labor deal that includes a comprehensive testing plan? Such a plan, unlikely as it is, given the union's resistance, might deter some players, but even baseball officials concede that the minor league testing program in place gives players the green light to shoot up in the off-season. And athletes in other sports subject to testing have stayed one step ahead of enforcement with tactics such as using so-called "designer drugs," steroids that are chemically altered to mask the unique signature of that drug that otherwise would show on a urine test.
So even with testing, will it take something much darker for steroids to fall from favor? Renowned sports orthopedist James Andrews recalled the impact of two prominent deaths on the drug culture in football. " Major League Baseball can't continue to leave this door open," says Andrews. "Steroids became a big deal in football after Lyle Alzado [died] and ephedrine became a big deal after Korey Stringer. You don't want to see it get to that [in baseball] before someone says stop. But, unfortunately, that's what it seems to take to wake people up."
Rogers has a nightmare about how it might end, and that is why he does not always throw his fastball as hard as he can. It is the thought of some beast pumped up on steroids whacking a line drive off his head. "We're the closest ones to the hitter," he says of the men on the mound. "I don't want the ball coming back at me any faster. It's a wonder it hasn't happened already. When one of us is down there dead on the field, then something might happen. Maybe. And if it's me, I've already given very clear instructions to my wife: Sue every one of their asses. Because everybody in baseball knows what's been going on."