Sportswriters on the Steroids Scandal: ‘We Blew It’

By: E&P Staff

Ever since Major League Baseball’s steroid scandal reared its ugly head several years ago — with new charges emerging just this week — speculation about whether sportswriters can be blamed for missing the story in the 1980s and 1990s has rarely grown beyond the speculative, with most of them asserting that there was little they could have done differently.

Now, in an exclusive, a group of current and former sportswriters and editors have admitted to Editor & Publisher that, at the very least, they should have looked into the issue sooner and with more investigative insight. Several even openly take responsibility, claiming “we blew it.”

For a feature story in the October issue out this week — also posted on — Senior Editor Joe Strupp interviewed more than a dozen beat writers and sports editors about what they should have covered as far back as 20 years ago when steroids are believed to have entered baseball at a measurable level. Overwhelmingly, the consensus was that signs of a problem, and potential proof of abuse, were there as far back as the mid-1980s.

“The bottom line is, we were nowhere on it,” The Washington Post’s Howard Bryant, a baseball scribe formerly with The Boston Herald and San Jose Mercury News, told Strupp.

“It was too easy to ignore what was happening and we did ignore it.” Adds Jeff Pearlman, a former baseball writer for Sports Illustrated, “I think we just blew it.”

Ken Rosenthal, an analyst for, covered baseball for The Sun of Baltimore. He also takes blame, declaring to E&P, “In hindsight, I screwed up.”

The article discusses the majority view by those on the beat, and recently retired, that enough signs were out there for more investigation, while also looking at the blind eye given to performance-enhancing substances during the 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run chase. Steve Wilstein, the former Associated Press baseball writer who broke the 1998 story about McGwire using a testosterone-boosting substance, tells E&P, “it probably put a little pressure on other baseball writers because it threatened the sport they loved.”

But sports editors, including Tom Jolly of The New York Times and former Los Angeles Times Sports Editor Bill Dwyre also weighed in. Jolly tells Strupp “I think all of us wish now that we had pushed harder,” adding, “I’ve wrestled with it and wondered if there were other approaches.”

Says Dwyre, “It didn’t register on our radar like it should have.”

Buster Olney of ESPN the Magazine, and a former Yankees beat writer for The New York Times, says that writers should have at least put more speculation out there. This might have led to firm discoveries sooner. “We could have written general stories about what people were saying,” he told Strupp.

To read the full article, click here.

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