The dark side of Dominican Baseball: The steroid crisis

By Sofia Rojas, 1oth Grade

Since 2005, there have been more than 1,000 positive cases of drug use in the MLB. Out of the 30,000 drug tests conducted by the agency, 0.2% are positive for performance-enhancing substances, half of which belong to Dominican baseball players. 

The use of steroids has long been widespread among baseball players from the Dominican Republic. 16 out of the 20 players in the big leagues who were punished for using PEDs were of Dominican nationality. This disproportionate statistic shows the exploitative business baseball has become for young Dominican baseball players. One of the main factors in the use of performance-enhancing narcotics is poverty. In a country where 40% of the population is considered low-income, many players seek to surpass other athletes to get signed by a recognized scout. For most of these boys, baseball equals a chance to escape generational poverty. This necessity and lack of education are one of the main reasons steroid use is so high. Since 1995, the Dominican Republic has led any other foreign nation in international rosters. Yet, the country is also leading the doping roster which leads to the other factor causing the steroid crisis: unreasonable accessibility. 

Anabolic steroids are completely legal in the Dominican Republic, making it quite simple for Dominican players to obtain them. There is no requirement for a prescription; all you have to do is ask for them at the pharmacy, as Alex Rodriguez did. Rodriguez acknowledged using PEDs while playing for the Rangers between 2002 and 2003. Furthermore, Rodriguez constantly mentioned how comfortable it was to obtain them in the Dominican Republic. PEDs like Primobolan and Durabolin are considerably cheap and can be acquired for less than 30 dollars in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, other anabolic substances like stanozolol and boldenone are extremely popular among young athletes because of their easy accessibility in practically any countrified pharmacy. 

The MLB penalized 13 athletes in August 2013 for using PEDs from the Florida-based Biogenesis clinic. Out of the 13 suspended athletes, 9 were from the Dominican Republic and admitted to using anabolic steroids to enhance their in-field performance. 

Even though steroid use is extremely popular among Dominican players, that doesn’t mean its usage doesn’t get properly penalized. The sanctions for an anti-doping infraction can include a suspension without pay, or a life ban if the case is considered serious. A player’s first positive steroid test results in a 50-game suspension. A second positive steroid test results in a 100-game suspension. Lastly, a third positive steroid test results in a lifetime ban from the MLB. All suspensions are without pay. Moreover, a suspended player can be replaced throughout the season by another player. Even knowing the suspensions and the consequences they could face Dominican players continue to numerically use PEDs. In 2007, Jenrry Mejia joined the Mets as an unrestricted foreign free agent. In 2010, he made his major league debut, and in 2014, he joined the Mets as their closer. Mejia’s life, however, took a turn for the worse when he tested positive for PEDs and was given an 80-game suspension. After testing positive for PEDs once more that year, he received his second suspension. After failing three drug tests in the same year, Mejia ultimately earned a lifetime ban from the Major Leagues in February 2016.

Inside this visible doping epidemic an unregulated market is exploiting children. According to the Toronto Star newspaper “A 2005-Star investigation found a black-market system in the Dominican in which prospects are treated like cattle by unregulated buscones collecting a percentage of any signing bonus. MLB has tried to control the problem, but it remains rampant.” 

It is clear that doping in the Dominican Republic goes beyond a player’s will. Many of our societal problems are pressuring and leading these young men to rely on anabolic steroids in order to find an escape from the social problems the government fails to address. 


Consiglio, A., & Consiglio, A. (2013b, August 11). Doping among Dominican baseball prospects ‘epidemic.’

Zeigler, M. (2022, August 19). Column: Fernando Tatis Jr. and the doping epidemic of Dominican Republic baseball – The San Diego Union-Tribune. San Diego Union-Tribune.

Wagner, J. (2022, November 4). Why Do 50 Percent of Steroid Suspensions Come From Dominican Republic? The New York Times. – Dominican Republic News & Travel Information Service. (n.d.).

Star, S. J. D. (2022, November 7). The Dominican Republic Loves Baseball, but Steroid problems run deep. San Juan Daily Star.


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