March 16, 2005 -- -- On the eve of congressional hearings on steroids in baseball, Americans express broad concern about young people using such drugs to emulate the stars, and favor a punitive approach for "juiced" athletes. But when it comes to enforcement, most want the federal government to stay in the bleachers.
More than eight in 10 Americans in an ABC News/ESPN poll say they're concerned that the use of steroids by well-known athletes encourages young people to use these drugs; nearly half are "very concerned" about it. Congressional leaders cite the same worry as a motivating factor in tomorrow's star-studded hearings.
Baseball comes in for considerable blame: Six in 10 say Major League Baseball has not done enough to prevent the use of these drugs by its players. Nonetheless, perhaps reflecting a broader distaste for federal regulation, only 30 percent of Americans think the federal government should take charge of creating and enforcing rules on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Nearly two-thirds think MLB, despite its failings to date, should write the rulebook.
The public has some austere suggestions for those rules. More than six in 10 say baseball players who are found to have broken the sport's rules by using performance-enhancing drugs should have their statistics stricken from the record books. Two-thirds also say such players should be ineligible for election to baseball's Hall of Fame.
On a related issue, fans broadly disagree with the decision not to call ballplayer Barry Bonds to testify before Congress tomorrow; more than seven in 10 say he should have been subpoenaed. Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., has said the committee didn't want a focus on Bonds to dominate the hearing. He also said that the committee had sought to avoid conflict with the BALCO grand jury investigation in San Francisco, in which Bonds, among others, has testified.