There have been approximately 50 baseball players suspended by MLB between 2005 and 2015 for violating the league’s drug policy. Some of these players have produced Hall of Fame-type statistics during their careers while others are more or less regarded as journeymen. In addition, some of the league’s best players admitted to taking banned substances after they retired and therefore weren’t hit with suspensions. However, these players are paying for it in another way as they’re basically being ignored by Hall of Fame voters.
Many of these players were hauled up in front of court houses at congressional hearings and denied taking performance-enhancing drugs, but the truth later came out. This is a list of the 15 best MLB players who have admitted to or have been strongly linked to taking performance-enhancing drugs (PED). None of these players have been elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and it doesn’t look like they ever will. There are also some pretty good players who have been suspended, but failed to make the list, such as Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Jason Grimsley, Marlon Byrd, Bartolo Colon, and Jhonny Peralta.
MLB introduced random drug testing in 2004 after the BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) investigation a year earlier. BALCO was investigated for its role in a sports scandal in which it was accused of developing and supplying athletes with hard-to-detect PEDs. In addition, the 2007 Mitchell Report also looked into PED use by MLB players and came up with a list of over 100 of them who had failed drug tests back in 2003. There was another scandal in 2013 when the Biogenesis Clinic of Coral Gables, Florida was found to have sold PEDs to several baseball players. And let’s not forget Jose Canseco, as the former slugger ratted out several players by claiming he personally injected them with steroids during his career.
15 Jason Giambi
Former first baseman Jason Giambi was one of several players who admitted to taking PEDs during his career from 1995 to 2014. Giambi hung up his glove with 440 home runs to his name along with 1,441 RBIs, 2,010 hits and a batting average of .277. He was a five-time All Star who took home the AL MVP Award for 2000 and was named the AL comeback player five years later. He also won a pair of Silver Slugger Awards. His name was mentioned in the BALCO investigation as well as the Mitchell Report and the player suffered from a benign tumor in 2004, which some people believed was linked to steroid use. Giambi’s grand jury testimony in 2003 was leaked to the press and it reportedly showed that Giambi admitted to the jury that he took banned substances. In 2007 he publicly admitted to using PEDs and said it was wrong to do so. He also stated that everybody who has used a banned substance should simply stand up and admit to it.
14 Gary Sheffield
Gary Sheffield enjoyed a fine career between 1988 and 2009 by smacking 509 home runs, 1,676 RBIs, and 2,689 hits to go along with a batting average of .292 and more than 200 stolen bases. He won a World Series ring and five Silver Slugger Awards and was a nine-time All Star. He was named in the Mitchell Report though and was linked to the infamous BALCO scandal as a cohort of Barry Bonds. Sheffield, who is the nephew of former pitcher Dwight Gooden, said Bonds’ trainer gave him cream for an injured knee which contained steroids in it. However, Sheffield claimed his performances on the field weren’t enhanced by the banned substance. Still, since he hasn’t denied using steroids it’s going to be hard for Sheffield to end up in Cooperstown.
13 Ryan Braun
Thirty-two-year-old Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers is another current player who has been suspended for using a banned substance. He ended the 2015 season with a career batting average of .304 along with 255 home runs, 1,441 hits, 845 RBIs, and 165 stolen bases. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2007, the NL MVP in 2011, and has taken home five Silver Slugger Awards. The six-time All-Star is well known for both his batting and defensive prowess and has led his league in fielding percentage more than once. However, he’s going to have a hard time getting into Cooperstown after he retires due to his history of PED use. He failed a testosterone test in 2011 and was tied to the Biogenesis Scandal. Braun received a 65-game suspension in 2013 for violating the league’s drug policy. Since then, his batting production has tailed off quite a bit. Braun was also facing a 50-game suspension over the failed 2011 test but challenged it and was let off on a technicality since his urine sample didn’t show up to the laboratory the same day it was taken.
12 David Ortiz
David Ortiz broke into the Majors back in 1997 and the 40-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is currently a member of the Boston Red Sox. He has a .284 batting average along with 503 home runs, 1,641 RBIs, and 2,303 hits. He’s won several individual awards such as a World Series MVP, six Silver Slugger trophies, and nine All-Star appearances. He’s also won three World Series titles during his career. Ortiz averaged 10 home runs a season in his six years with the Minnesota Twins and then hammered an average of 34 a year in his first 10 seasons with the Red Sox. He also set the single season Red Sox record in 2006 with 54 homers. However, Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance in 2003 and admitted that it was true, but he never knowingly took steroids. The numbers show that he’s still the most productive designated hitter in the history of the game.
11 Miguel Tejada
Shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Dominican Republic posted some fine numbers between 1997 and 2011 such as a .285 career batting average, 304 homers, 1,282 RBIs, and 2,362 hits. He was a six-time All-Star who took home a pair of Silver Slugger Awards and an AL MVP trophy. Tejada had a great arm to accompany his excellent speed, power, and defence. He was sailing along in his career until Jose Canseco, Jason Grimsley and Rafael Palmeiro ratted on him as a steroid user. Like most players, Tejada claimed he never took steroids and wasn’t aware of anyone who did. He was named in the Mitchell Report though and receipts for PEDs were produced. Tejada was even charged with perjury back in 2009 and then admitted to steroid use. He was nailed with a 105-game suspension in 2013 for violating MLB’s drug policy.
10 Juan Gonzalez
Right fielder Juan Gonzalez of Puerto Rico played from 1989 to 2005 and belted 434 homers along with 1,404 RBIs, 1,936 hits and a .295 batting average. He was a three-time All-Star who captured half a dozen Silver Slugger Awards and a pair of MVP nods. Gonzalez was a fine power hitter who drove in 157 runs back in 1998. In 2005 Jose Canseco squealed on him as a PED user though and claimed he even injected him with steroids when they were teammates in Texas. In addition, Gonzalez’s trainer, Angel Presinal was allegedly caught with luggage containing steroids and drug paraphernalia. The trainer said it was Gonzalez’s bag, but the ball player denied it. Gonzalez's name was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report and Texas owner Tom Hicks told the press he was suspicious of Gonzalez and his alleged steroid use since he suffered several injuries and retired relatively early at the age of 36.
9 Jose Canseco
According to former slugger Jose Canseco of Cuba, he injected numerous players with PEDs during his career and wasn’t afraid to name them, such as Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, and Ivan Rodriguez. Canseco, an outfielder/designated hitter from 1985 to 2001, wrote a book several years ago detailing his career and his admitted steroid use. He hammered 486 home runs during his career and batted in 1,407 with a .266 batting average. He was AL Rookie of the Year in 1986, the MVP in 1988, and won a pair of World Series rings. Canseco was also a six-time All-Star who led the league twice in home runs and once in RBIs.
8 Ivan Rodriguez
Ivan Rodriguez of Puerto Rico was one of baseball’s best hitting and defensive catchers of all time. However, his chances of ending up in the Hall of Fame were more or less shot when he was named by Jose Canseco as a player whom he injected with steroids. Rodriguez, who played from 1991 to 2011, holds the all-time record for catchers with 13 Gold Gloves, games caught at 2,377 and by starting a dozen All-Star games. He also ranks second with his seven Silver Slugger Awards. Rodriguez retired with 311 home runs, 1,332 RBIs, 2,844 hits, a .296 batting average and threw out a MLB record 45.7 percent of attempted base stealers. The 1999 AL MVP also batted at least .300 in 10 of his seasons. Many baseball fans feel the catcher basically admitted to steroid use when asked if he failed a 2003 drug test by answering, “Only God knows.” In addition, his muscular body soon became a shadow of itself after the accusations flew his way.
7 Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez was a slugging outfielder from the Dominican Republic who played in the Major Leagues from 1993 to 2011. He won nine Silver Slugger Awards and retired with 555 home runs, a .312 batting average, 1,831 RBIs and 2,574 hits. He holds the MLB record for 29 playoff homers, is third on the all-time grand-slam list with 21 and holds the Cleveland Indians' RBI record with 165 of them in a season back in 1999. He allegedly tested positive for PEDs in 2003 and six years later he was handed a 50-game suspension by MLB for violating the league’s drug policy by taking a banned substance. MLB also stated that Ramirez violated its policy again in 2011 and was facing a 100-game ban. However, he retired instead. But when September rolled around he wanted to play again and a few months later agreed to serve another 50-game suspension. Ramirez signed with the Oakland Athletics, but they released him a few months later.
6 Rafael Palmeiro
Along with Pete Rose, Rafael Palmeiro of Havana, Cuba could end up being the only ball player to rack up 3,000 hits and not make it into the Hall of Fame. Rose, of course, isn’t in Cooperstown because of his gambling and Palmeiro isn’t there due to PED use. He’s a player who admitted to using banned substances, but feels the Hall of Fame should be open to everybody since the majority of baseball players take them. Palmeiro played first base, designated hitter and in the outfield between 1986 to 2005 and amassed 569 homers, 3,020 hits, 1,835 RBIs and a .288 batting average. Former teammate Jose Canseco claimed he injected Palmeiro with steroids, but Palmeiro denied it at a congressional hearing. He later failed a drug test and was banned for 10 days though. Palmeiro then stated that he never “knowingly” took steroids.
5 Mark McGwire
Back in 2010 former slugger Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids during his career and apologized to MLB and the fans. He also said he didn’t need PEDs to knock the ball out of the park and he took the drugs for health reasons. The problem is nobody will ever know how many homers he would have hit without outside help. He currently sits in 10th place on the all-time homer list with 583 after the first baseman retired in 2001. He slammed record 49 homers as a rookie, set a record at the time in 1998 with 70 in a season, and was the fastest player to reach 500 homers. McGwire twice led the league in RBIs, on-base percentage, and walks while managing to crank a home run for every 10.61 at bats, which is the MLB record.
4 Roger Clemens
Former pitcher Roger Clemens was considered one of the best of his and any other era, but was another baseball player who couldn’t resist cheating. Clemens has never admitted to PED use, but it appears most Hall of Fame voters don’t believe him. Clemens retired with a record of 354-184, seven Cy Young Awards, a 3.12 earned-run average and 4,672 strikeouts after playing from 1984 to 2007. However, he was named in the Mitchell Report as somebody who took PEDs, but was also cleared of lying to Congress over it and reportedly never failed a drug test. Former Toronto Blue Jay trainer Brian McNamee claimed that he injected the pitcher with steroids though when he played in Toronto. He’s in the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame, but not Cooperstown even though he’s a former AL MVP, 11-time All Star and led the league in several pitching categories numerous times.
3 Sammy Sosa
Sammy Sosa was one of the best sluggers baseball has ever seen with 609 homers to his name. He’s in pretty good company since just eight players have ever managed to belt 600 in their careers. Sosa shamed himself and his homeland of the Dominican Republic though by taking PEDs and allegedly corking his bat. The right fielder was the quickest in NL history to hit 400 homers and holds the home run record for foreign-born players. In addition, he’s one of just two NL players to bat in 160 runs in a season since 1900 and the only slugger to belt at least 60 home runs in a season on three occasions. He retired with a .273 batting average, 2,408 hits and 1,667 RBIs. Sosa became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013 but his vote total has dropped in each consecutive year.
2 Alex Rodriguez
Current New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez returned to the team last year after sitting out a year-long suspension for PED usage. The 40-year-old has Hall of Fame-like statistics, but may never be inducted to Cooperstown because of his actions. A-Rod’s 687 home runs rank fifth on the all-time list at the moment and he’s chipped in with 3,070 hits, 2,055 RBI’s and 2,002 runs scored. The infielder/designated hitter also has a .297 batting average for his career and was the youngest player to reach 500 homers. Rodriguez is a 14-time All-Star and has taken home a trio of AL MVP Awards along with a pair of Gold Gloves and 10 Silver Slugger Awards. We’re still not done as A-Rod is the all-time grand slam leader with 25. Sadly, for Rodriguez, he’s supplied his critics with a ton of ammunition due to his use of illegal drugs.
1 Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds may have been a great baseball player without PED use, but his accomplishments will always be tarnished in the eyes of many fans. When it comes to pure statistics, Bonds actually rates as arguably the best of all time. Bonds retired as the only MLB player to ever reach 500 home runs and 500 stolen bases as he had 762 dingers and 512 stolen sacks. His career batting average stands at .298 with 2,935 hits and a .444 on-base percentage during his 22-year career along with 1,996 RBI’s. Bonds racked up seven National League MVP trophies as well as 14 All-Star nods. Bonds set several hitting records which include 73 home runs in a season and his 762 career homers. He also holds the record for most walks in a career and won eight Gold Gloves for his fine outfield play. But for all of his on-field achievements, Bonds may never get into the Hall of Fame due to PED use.