15 Villains Of The Steroid Era: Where Are They Now?
Cheating is a time-honored tradition in any sport, you're just not supposed to get caught. “The Steroid Era” was when a lot of people super got caught. We at Cracked would never dream of using PEDs—except the swole comedians among us, obviously—but we don't think PEDs are so serious that the athletic heroes of our youth should be ostracized completely. Especially knowing what's lurking at the supplement store on the corner. So we're checking in with some of the biggest names of the early aughts' heyday of steroid scandals:
The red-bushy-bearded half of the legendary 1998 home run record chase, McGwire broke Roger Maris's long-held single season home run record with 70 dingers. But something smelled in Busch Stadium, and it wasn't just all the stale Budweiser. Hitting 12 more home runs then your previous career high is a leap, especially for a dude in his age 34 season. McGwire admitted to using Androstenedione in 1998, admitted to steroids in 2010, and received the harsh punishment of becoming a respected hitting coach from 2010-2018 before retiring on his own terms to watch his sons play baseball. His kids, by the way, are named Matthew, Max, Mason, Monet, Marlo, and Monroe, which may not magnify our missive, but makes for a most marvelous set of monogrammed pajamas on the yearly holiday card.
The other half of that 1998 home run chase, Sosa also broke Maris's record with 66 long balls. By the way, Roger Maris's son to this day doesn't acknowledge any record-breaking thanks to steroids. Back to Sluggin' Sammy: we're coming up on the 10th anniversary of Cracked discovering Sammy Sosa's official Pinterest. As of this writing, it is still the real Sammy Sosa, and it is his Pinterest. Feels like that's all that matters—Sammy Sosa still has the Pinterest page of the real Sammy Sosa, and it is his Pinterest, forever and Pinterest amen—but journalistic integrity demands we at least mention skin lightening. For his part, Sosa claims it is due to the lotion he uses at night, and we'll take his word there before wandering into racial politics this article doesn't have time for. Did we mention Sammy Sosa has a Pinterest?
When you go from never hitting 50 homers to suddenly smacking 73 while your head Zaphod Beeblebroxes, people ask questions about steroids. Bonds was already a dick to the media before the steroid scandal and walloping 73 directly into Maris's grave at age 36 ensured that baseball writers would never vote him into Cooperstown. Bonds has had a few hitting coach gigs, but mostly spends his time cycling and describes himself as a “harmless loner.”
If you aren't following Jose Canseco on Twitter and want to remember him as “best baseball player, 1988,” don't follow Jose Canseco on Twitter. The former slugger, whose memoir Juiced was the initial shotgun shell that blew the doors off the BALCO scandal, now fixes his fingers to tweeting about Bigfoot and aliens. He sells Twitter follows for $79, apparently, because who has the time to set up a Cameo account?
Clemens was the highest-profile pitcher named in the Mitchell Report, which is interesting because pitchers are more likely to get suspended for PEDs. 2022 was Clemens's last year of Hall of Fame eligibility, and baseball writers didn't vote him in. He's faced allegations of grooming 16-year-old country singer Mindy McCready before their relationship turned sexual when she was 21. Sexual, that is, when Roger “The Rocket” actually had rocket fuel. Stay off steroids, kids.
'Roids might turn your grapes to raisins, but you can still be Father Of The Year. Rafael Palmeiro retired at an ancient 40 in 2005. Except, surprise, Palmeiro could totally still play. In 2015, Rafael signed a one-day contract with the Sugar Land Skeeters to take the field with his son, Patrick. Three years later, the father-son duo played a season with the Cleburne Railroaders, a team even the fine people of Cleburne probably refer to as “who?”
Alex Rodriguez bought the Minnesota Timberwolves to get over getting dumped by Jennifer Lopez. Wait it gets worse: J.Lo dumped A-Rod for Ben Affleck. The Timberwolves are one of the NBA's saddest franchises. Let's just move on.
In the 90s, corny dads across America would say of Mo Vaughn, “there's mo' Vaughn every year." Steroids blew Mo up like the Balloon Burst game in Mario Party. In retirement, Vaughn got into refurbishing houses and owned a trucking company. A ballplayer retiring to Ohio to own a trucking company is such a quaint, picturesque Norman Rockwell ending that we're kind of surprised baseball writers didn't just say “aw shucks” and let ol' Mo into the HOF.
Jason Giambi was one of two players to voluntarily cooperate with the Mitchell investigation…because he faced disciplinary action if he didn't. Giambi was the guy who shows up for Taco Bell shift with red eyes and skunk smell then eats eight Crunchwrap Supremes for a shift meal and then gets “randomly” drug tested. Jason's younger brother, Jeremy, also had a big leagues career. Tragically, Jeremy died by suicide in 2022, and that bit of information doesn't make us feel great about digging around for more Giambi info.
Let's take a brief break from baseball, because the hysteria surrounding baseball's mounting steroid scandals did spill into other sports. Dodgeball character actor Lance Armstrong had a lot to lose from being labeled a cheater, given that he's probably still the only cyclist most Americans can name. Don't worry about ol' “Juan Pelota," though: Armstrong invested early in Uber, making enough millions to cover his ass after he lost all his endorsements and sponsorships due to doping.
The other cyclist with major doping allegations, Floyd Landis gets the award for funniest excuse for doping, saying excess testosterone in his blood was thanks to all the whiskey he was drinking. No one told dude “put hair on your chest” was just an expression, we guess. Landis is in the cannabis industry now, and advocates for CBD use to deal with chronic pain.
A triple threat track athlete and decorated Olympian, Jones maybe had the biggest fall from grace on this list. She had Olympic medals stripped, was forced to retire, got pushed to the point of crying on national TV while admitting to lying to federal investigators, and wound up in prison on a check fraud scheme. Brutal decade for Marion Jones. Her case was marred by being around what the documentary Press Pause would term “bad men,” shady dudes like steroid mastermind Victor Conte and steroid-using ex-husband C.J. Hunter. Jones later found redemption as a point guard for the Tulsa Shock, hitting the hardwood for a two-season tour.
Remember how in that last entry, we alluded to shady dudes? Selig knew that at least amphetamines were a problem for seven or eight decades, and he's been a total flip-flopper on when he knew about steroids—taking a turtle's pace to acknowledge or do anything about either. He also flip-flopped for years about when he was going to retire, then ended up never really going away. He's roughly 900 years old, and his official title is “Commissioner Emeritus of Baseball.”
Victor Conte and The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative
Remember Wolf Of Wall Street, how after all that crime, Jordan Belfort only served 22 months in a minimum security prison and got to make a cute lil' cameo in the Marty Scorsese movie? Former Tower of Power bassist Victor Conte asked “what is hip” and decided the answer was serving athletes steroid-laden squib cakes and then ratting them out on national TV. What did the man who destroyed the world's trust in sports decide to do with his life after serving prison time for the BALCO scandal? He started a new supplement company, Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning, and had the audacity to write a book called BALCO: The Straight Dope On Steroids, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, and What We Can Do To Save Sports. Way to call out two prominent Black athletes while totally passing the buck on the mess you made, Bay Area Guy.
The man who had a Hall of Fame career playing clean during the Steroid Era is our twist ending. Yes, Frank Thomas was awesome without steroids, which makes him honorable, but he also was one of two players to voluntarily cooperate with the Mitchell investigation, which makes him kind of a narc. Oh, and remember how we brought up supplement stores at the beginning? Foreshadowing alert! Frank Thomas now spends his days slinging Nuginex, a testosterone pill “for men over 40.” Don't worry about any Big Hurts on your Lil' Louisville Slugger like with steroids, though: Frank says if you take Nugenix, “she'll like it too.”