|Another step in the right direction||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on June 11, 2012
MLB and MLBPA officials came together Thursday to improve the drug-testing program in the CBA by closing some loopholes, clarifying the procedure for sample collection and shipping and changing the way that a lot of things are done.
This wasn't a small step forward but a huge leap for baseball when it comes to exposing the cheats, dealing with non-PED drugs, dealing with ADD/ADHD drugs and reassessing the way that Therapeutic Use Exemption applications will be examined.
1) Establishing a protocol for evaluation and treatment of players who may be abusing alcohol or involved in alcohol related violent conduct off field;
This doesn't go quite as far as mandating suspensions for DUIs or drunken incidents such as the one involving Delmon Young earlier this year, but after the rash of DUIs and violent incidents involving alcohol in the past year it's a very good start.
2) Adding to the treatment and evaluation protocols for narcotic drugs and increasing penalties for those caught possessing or convicted of buying, selling, or using such;
Basically this one isn't much of a bomb. If a player gets caught by the authorities involving drugs, baseball is going to suspend the player in addition to whatever legal problems the player might have.
3) Creating a panel of ADD/ADHD experts to advise on Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for said drugs;
This is something that is long overdue. Baseball had a staggering increase (over 350%) of TUEs issued for ADD/ADHD drugs almost the moment that amphetamines were added to the banned substance list and testing was initiated. In fact 8 percent of all baseball players have that exemption currently but only somewhere between 1-4 percent of the population suffers from ADD/ADHD. Maybe it's not surprising that ADD/ADHD drugs are in demand, after all they are stimulants.
4) Creating a panel of medical experts to advise on TUE exemptions for other medicines;
This should be a big help to Independent Administrator Bryan Smith, who has the final say on if which players and which drugs deserve TUEs. It probably won't result in a lot of TUE applications being turned down, as few MDs are going to block another doctor's medical suggestions, but it might block one or two which are meant as ways to gain an on field edge.
5) Expanding HGH blood testing to include Spring Training and during the offseason. It also allows testing for reasonable cause;
Presumably the reasonable cause here means that MLB doesn't have to wait for a player to come up on the random testing schedule to test him, but it probably doesn't allow for in season testing. Both sides agreed to continue discussing adding HGH blood testing to the regular season, but haven't come to agreement on the details that could make that happen.
6) Increasing the number of random tests during both the season and offseason;
7) Permitting the public announcement of the substance(s) a player test positive for;
After years of not being told just what a player tested positive for, it will be nice to know just what a player is guilty of using. In some cases it may also serve, at least in the public eye, to exonerate players who do test positive for drugs that may have been taken inadvertently for a legitimate medical condition (which several players have made claims to in the past, including Manny Ramirez).
Then we come to the Ryan Braun section of the overhaul.
8) Creating penalties including ineligibility for the All-Star Game for those caught using PED's;
Get caught and you aren't an All-Star, no matter how many people vote for you. Seems right to me. Cheats have no place at the All-Star Game.
9) Reworking the appeals process and codifying which conditions regarding test sample handling will result in test results being voided;
Obviously this went hand in hand with making hard rules for how samples are handled, stored and shipped and a time frame for all of the same.
None of these changes to the drug policy will make the policy perfect, but this revision eliminates the loopholes that many feel allowed Braun to escape suspension. It addresses alcohol abuse, narcotic abuse, stimulant abuse and greatly improves the TUE application process by getting additional expert opinions.
The additions of added transparency and of more blood testing for HGH are laudable and strengthen MLB's drug policy considerably. Down the road it could get even better if in-season testing were to be permitted not just for HGH but for other banned substances as well.
Still it's a huge leap forward and we have to applaud both MLB and the MLBPA for continuing to advance the evolution of the drug policy outside of the regular CBA meetings.