July 7, 2008
Biostatisticians probe steroid use in baseball
By Ashante Dobbs
The major league batters accused of using steroids, as named in a report by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, appeared to have an advantage over their non-doping peers, Emory biostatisticians found. The researchers’ findings were presented at the recent Society for American Baseball Research meeting.
The Emory team’s analysis represents the first attempt to quantify the overall effect of performance-enhancing drug (PED) abuse on offensive performance in baseball.
Using information from the 409-page Mitchell Report, Rollins School of Public Health faculty members Brian Schmotzer and Patrick Kilgo, in collaboration with graduate student Jeff Switchenko, created a database to track various statistics. The team then modeled the effect of PED use on offensive performance among those players mentioned in the Mitchell report compared to all other players from the steroid era, adjusting for age.
What they found was a significant and substantial performance advantage for players who allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs, particularly steroids, during the study period. It’s estimated that offensive production among the accused steroid users increased by about 7 percent to 12 percent versus non-users. The effect of Human Growth Hormone was found to be minimal.
“Previous studies have focused on particular players and whether or not they abused steroids,” says Kilgo, senior associate in the biostatistics department. “This analysis looked at all players during the steroid era and arrived at an overall estimate of the advantage to batters.”