Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Union to expand the drug testing program — including in-season, random and unannounced blood tests for human growth hormone, as well as one designed to catch those abusing testosterone.
In addition, MLB will begin a “longitudinal testing program” in which they’ll keep a record of a players’ test results so that any change in testosterone will become evident based on the previous baseline.
Commissioner Bud Selig told reporters the expanded testing is “a major step,” and “a proud day for baseball.”
“This agreement addresses critical drug issues and symbolizes Major League Baseball’s continued vigilance against synthetic human growth hormone, Testosterone and other performance-enhancing substances,” Selig said in a statement. “I am proud that our system allows us to adapt to the many evolving issues associated with the science and technology of drug testing. We will continue to do everything we can to maintain a leadership stature in anti-doping efforts in the years ahead.”
“The players are determined to do all they can to continually improve the sport’s Joint Drug Agreement,” MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said in a statement. “Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair; I believe these changes firmly support the Players’ desires while protecting their legal rights.”
While HGH blood testing was used on a trial basis during spring training and the offseason after it’s approval in November 2011, the new test for Testosterone are an interesting development after several high-profile players were suspended for Testosterone infractions in the last two years.
After winning the 2011 NL MVP award, Ryan Braun allegedly tested positive for Testosterone in December 2011, but Braun’s results were overturned in the appeal process. The 2012 All-Star Game MVP, Melky Cabrera, in the midst of a career year for the San Francisco Giants, was suspended in August for it, as was Bartolo Colon, then with the Oakland A’s.
Here is some more background on the issue from the New York Times:
Major League Baseball was the first major sport in the United States to sign on to H.G.H. testing, reaching an agreement with its union in November 2011 to begin testing for the substance. That agreement, however, called for testing only in spring training and the off-season, reflecting concerns by the players about how their blood would be collected before or after regular-season games and whether the process would impact their performance on the field.
When the original agreement was announced, both sides said they would look into expanding the testing program for 2013, which they have now done. As a result, there will now be in-season testing for H.G.H., a substance that can help players build muscle mass and recover quickly from extended physical activity but which cannot be legally used without a prescription.
The new agreement also establishes a new testing regimen for testosterone, a substance that is believed to have grown in popularity within baseball because it quickly leaves a player’s system after being used.
Those details were also reflected in a release sent out by MLB announcing the expanded testing:
Today’s announcement marks another significant step in the progression of Baseball’s HGH testing policy, which continues to be the strongest in American professional sports. Since July 2010, Major League Baseball has conducted random blood testing for the detection of HGH among Minor League players. As a part of the 2012-2016 (CBA), the parties agreed to blood testing for HGH during 2012 Spring Training, the off-season, and for reasonable cause, making baseball the first sport to deploy this kind of testing at its highest level. Under the new agreement, all of those aspects of the program will continue, and there will be in-season, unannounced, random blood testing.
In addition, beginning in the 2013 season, the parties have authorized the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited Montreal Laboratory to establish a longitudinal profile program, in which a player’s baseline Testosterone/Epitestosterone (T/E) ratio and other data will be maintained by the laboratory, with strict protections for confidentiality, in order to enhance its ability to detect the use of Testosterone and other prohibited substances. The laboratory will automatically conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) analysis on all specimens that vary materially from a player’s baseline values. The laboratory also will increase the number of random IRMS analysis it conducts on specimens. The longitudinal program being implemented by the parties will be one of the most significant programs of its kind in the world.