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Home Maury Brown How MLB's Drug Policy Went from Worst to First

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How MLB's Drug Policy Went from Worst to First PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 11 June 2012 12:50

MLBFirst off, before you scream “WADA” or “Olympics” let’s get something straight: MLB’s drug policy isn’t the best in the world. Where they have moved forward is with the Big-4 sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). Today, you’d be hard pressed to say that measuring against that competition, MLB is now not first. This isn’t to say there aren’t holes in the system that allow players to use PEDs and get by undetected (It seems highly possible that due to the substances that Manny Ramirez tested positive for that he could have been using steroids for some time and gone undetected), but if there is a sport that has gone from worst to first, baseball has a pretty strong case.

Today on Baseball Prospectus, I outline the changes to the MLB/MLBPA Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) that were collectively bargained as part of the new labor deal, and modified in the wake of the Ryan Braun ruling.

In a nutshell, here’s the changes as defined by the league and the union for the players:

The revisions include:

  • Adding hGH blood testing during Spring Training, during the off-season, and for reasonable cause.  The parties also agreed to study expanding hGH testing to the regular season.
  • Increasing the number of random tests during the season and off-season.
  • Modifying the Collection Procedures of the Program to clarify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, and how specimens should be stored prior to delivery to the courier.
  • Modifying the Appeals procedures of the Program, including the circumstances under which procedural deviations will result in the invalidation of test results.
  • Creating an Expert Panel of recognized ADD/ADHD experts to advise the Independent Program Administrator (“IPA”) on Therapeutic Use Exemption (“TUE”) applications for ADD/ADHD medications, and another expert panel of medical professionals to advise the IPA on TUE applications for other medications.
  • Strengthening the protocols for addressing use by players of drugs of abuse.
  • Permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player’s positive test result or discipline.
  • Making players who are suspended for violating the Program prior to the All-Star Break (including during Spring Training and the preceding off-season) ineligible to be elected or selected for the All-Star Game.
  • Establishing a protocol for evaluating and treating players who may suffer from an alcohol use problem or who have engaged in off-field violent conduct.
  • Clarifying the rules for violations for use or possession of prohibited substances based on evidence other than positive test results (“non-analytical positives.”)
  • Increasing the penalties for criminal convictions for possession or use of drugs of abuse (including stimulants).    

    The parties have added over 45 performance-enhancing substances and stimulants to the list of prohibited substances in the Program since the publication of the May 2008 Program. 

The hGH testing is something that MLB leaps ahead of other sports with. While the need for in-season testing is certainly there (players voiced concerns over how blood-draws might impact them in the middle of the season), baseball becomes the first league to actually implement hGH testing (the NFL had an agreement in principle with the NFLPA but have yet to get it in place).

. Less than a decade ago, Gene Orza, then the COO of the MLBPA, said the following:

"Let's assume that (steroids) are a very bad thing to take," said Orza, who was speaking on a panel at The Octagon World Congress of Sports in 2004. "I have no doubt that they are not worse than cigarettes. But I would never say that to the clubs as an individual who represents the interests of players, 'Gee, I guess by not allowing baseball to suspend and fine players for smoking cigarettes, I am not protecting their health.'

"Whether it's good or bad for you, it's a far cry to say that because it's bad for you, you should participate in a structure which allows your employer to punish you for doing something that you shouldn't be doing," Orza said. "That's not my understanding of what unions do for their employees."

Flash-forward to Thursday, and here’s what the MLBPA had to say about the latest drug policy and the associated program:

“These latest changes and revisions to the Joint Drug Agreement reflect the players’ desire to have the strongest possible Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in professional team sports,” said MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner. “Today’s announcement reflects one of the greatest strengths of the Program – its ability to be improved through the collective bargaining process.”

Read the entire drug agreement, plus an updated doc that covers the entire collection process, here on The Biz of Baseball


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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