Poll: More than half of baseball fans say the sport hasn't done enough to curb use of steroids
WASHINGTON -- Most baseball fans think Major League Baseball could do more to curb the use of steroids, and they have doubts about slugger Barry Bonds as he chases the sport's career home run record.
Baseball has fallen short on keeping the sport drug-free, according to 53 percent in an AP-AOL Sports poll. Those most likely to feel that way are fans 30 and older and those with more education.
Almost two-thirds of fans have unfavorable or mixed feelings about Bonds, the San Francisco Giants star who is chasing the home run record while fending off accusations that he used steroids.
Hank Aaron holds the home run record of 755, followed by Babe Ruth with 714. The 41-year-old Bonds is closing in on Ruth's record.
For many baseball fans, suspicion about steroids is stealing the joy from watching Bonds' bid for history.
"It's upset me," said William Dobney, a retired school superintendent and baseball fan from Grandy, N.C. "You see guys go out there on the field and you don't know if they're using God-given strength or drug-enhanced strength."
Bonds has denied in sworn testimony ever using steroids, although he acknowledged using two substances that he says he didn't know were steroids. Prosecutors say they believe the substances were steroids.
Major League Baseball is investigating Bonds' possible involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Almost two-thirds of fans say they think baseball is treating Bonds fairly.
Many fans say Bonds should not be allowed into baseball's Hall of Fame if he's found to have used steroids or other such drugs. But the timing of any steroids use could be crucial in public support for Bonds getting into the Hall.
Half the fans in the poll were asked if Bonds should be allowed into the Hall of Fame if he is found to have used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, and 61 percent of them said no.
However, the other half of the sample was asked if he should be allowed in the Hall if he was found to have used such drugs only before baseball enacted rules against them in 2002, and 57 percent said yes. Casual fans were most likely to shift their opinion about allowing Bonds in the Hall, depending on the timing of steroids use.
Nonwhites were twice as likely as whites to say the black outfielder should be allowed into the Hall of Fame if he's found to have used steroids.
One longtime opponent of Bonds on the playing field says the Giants' outfielder definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame.
"He was the best player in our league, the National League, for a long time," said Mike Scioscia, a former Los Angeles Dodger who now manages the Angels in the American League. "What he might or might not have done doesn't lessen his Hall of Fame stature."
The first rules against steroids agreed to by management and the union went into effect in September 2002. Testing began in spring training 2003, but penalties for failed tests weren't in place until 2004.
Last fall, major league players and owners agreed to toughen penalties for steroid use to a 50-game suspension for a first failed test, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. Under the policy, players are given urine tests at least twice during the season and could face more random testing.
One critic of baseball's drug policy is Dr. Gary Wadler, a steroids expert based at New York University Medical School. Baseball should do blood testing, expand the list of prohibited substances and have a more ambitious schedule of random testing, he said.
Wadler said it appears that baseball is more committed to getting rid of steroids, but he had reservations about the current policy.
"It's better than no testing at all, but it's significantly short of the gold standard," he said.
Major League Baseball spokesman Richard Levin responded: "We have the toughest drug testing program in professional sports right now."
Almost two-thirds of baseball fans, 63 percent, say they care "a lot" if players use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Those most likely to care a lot were fans who closely follow baseball, were more educated and older.
"The new baseball rules are sufficient, but they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to this," said 60-year-old fan Samuel Spear of Mount Vernon, N.Y. Spear said his view of Bonds is "basically unfavorable."
"If he took steroids, he's a cheater," Spear said. "It's as simple as that."
The AP-AOL Sports poll of 793 baseball fans was conducted by Ipsos, an international polling firm April 10-12 and April 18-20 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
AP news survey specialist Dennis Junius and AP sports writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., contributed to this story.
On the Net:
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index