When you think of steroids in baseball, you probably think of the big name players and the designer drugs that have been discussed so heavily in the mainstream media. For those of us born and raised in the United States - and who think of baseball as the all-American game - that's all well and good. Steroids are a controlled substance in this country and their use, without a doctor's prescription, is illegal.
However it's not that way everywhere. In many places the users are far less well known and what they're injecting themselves with isn't tied to their diet or their blood composition.
While it doesn't receive nearly as much attention, steroids are not illegal in much of Latin America - and Latin America is where many more major leaguers (and especially minor leaguers) are coming from. Now, this is not to say that Latin American ballplayers are at the root of the steroid issue. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't - maybe they use performance enhancing drugs with the same regularity as their American, Canadian, and Asian counterparts. That's not the issue here.
The issue is that steroids are unregulated in many of these countries. This is most noteworthy in the Dominican Republic, a hotbed which produces a huge number of major leaguers in proportion to the country's population.
In order to attract interests from scouts, some Dominican youngsters have been known to procure steroids intended for animals in an effort to improve their strength. Latin American ballplayers are often signed by clubs when they turn 16 (Miguel Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Adrian Beltre, and countless others are among those signed at such a young age) and not when they're 18 or finishing high school (like in the US). So what you have happening here is young teenagers are deciding to use steroids on their own, at a very young age, without medical supervision, and at a time when their bodies are going through enough change as it is.
Major league teams don't test these prospects for steroids when they're about to sign them. They're certainly not required to, but many folks feel that if the clubs did, it would be a deterrent to the youngsters and it would likely keep many of them off the drugs.
You can read more about what Hispanics Across America is doing to try to spread the word about this issue and to have Major League Baseball do something about it.