Baseball has long been America’s favorite pastime.

Fans flock to ballparks across the country to cheer on larger-than-life stars who are living the dream.

But as performance-enhancing drug (PED) scandals become more and more prevalent, is our national pastime under threat?

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has been a hot topic in the sports sector this week as he, along with eight other players, awaits his penalty stemming from the biggest MLB doping scandal to date.

But Rodriguez is only the most recent household name in a string of high-profile athletes who have come under suspicion for the means by which they achieved greatness.

The subsequent investigation into those players and their behavior behind closed doors casts a shadow over the entire sport. Every broken record is suspect, every award called into question.

One such example is Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. Braun, along with Rodriguez, is linked to a clinic in Miami – Biogenesis – that is being investigated in connection with the distribution of PEDs, according to a story first reported in the Miami New Times. Braun won a tightly contested National League MVP race over Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp in 2011.

On July 22, Braun was suspended for 65 games. But that’s no consolation for Kemp.

Barry Bonds, a seven-time National League MVP and owner of two of the most esteemed records in baseball – career home runs (762) and homers in a single season (73 in 2001, after never hitting over 49 previously) – was convicted in late 2011 of attempting to mislead a grand jury during an investigation of his alleged steroids use.

Other big names join Bonds as holders of tainted statistics: Rodriguez sits at No. 5 on the career home run list, Sammy Sosa is No. 8 and Mark McGwire is 10th.

McGwire’s chase to break the single-season record in 1998 was much publicized in an effort to draw fans back to the stadium. He and Sosa busted the record set by Roger Maris, the former New York Yankees great, of 61 home runs in 1961.

Upon conviction, Bonds’ sentence called for a $4,000 fine, community service and 30 days of home confinement.

But in 2013, things have changed. A-Rod, whose penalty could be levied as early as Friday, stands to lose the privilege of playing in the major leagues altogether.

Such punishment has been meted out in other professional sports already, and in the Olympics for decades.

Other measures are being taken as well: If a player is caught doping, he risks his entire legacy.

The Hall of Fame inducted three new members Sunday – Jacob Ruppert Jr., umpire Hank O’Day and James “Deacon” White – and all three have been dead for more than 70 years.

Bonds, Sosa and Roger Clemens were all eligible for induction this season. This trio, however, was implicated for using artificial performance enhancers, and that doesn’t fly with Hall of Fame voters.

When Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France crowns after being convicted of doping, he went on national television to say that his use of PEDs didn’t give him a leg up on the competition or earn him any titles, it merely leveled the playing field.

Sure, a race – or a baseball game – in which every participant is artificially enhanced may put everyone involved on equal ground.

But you know what else gives everyone a fair shake? When no one is doping.

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