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Home » Around Baseball & OpinionsNovember 2005 » I Wanna New Drug

I Wanna New Drug

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association came to an agreement over a tougher schedule of penalties for violators of the performance-enhancing drug policy. The notable lacuna of amphetamines has been mended and agreement enforces a “three strikes and you’re out” approach to steroids. One of my primary issues with the policy remains: the testing is limited to urine. Since blood tests are still not permitted, any player taking the next generation of growth hormones will go undetected and unpunished.

To be sure, this is a great leap forward. However, it is incredibly shortsighted not to allow blood tests nor the retroactive testing of stored samples for enhancers for which tests have not yet been developed, as the National Football League does. The MLB drug policy continues to be mere window-dressing to satisfy Congress. The federal government will probably intercede in a few more years, when offensive production propels into the stratosphere once again and the gaps in the policy are exploited by the next generation of cheaters. And the burlesque will begin anew.

Violation Steroids: Previous Penalty
Steroids: Revised Penalty
Amphetamine Penalty
First positive test 10 days 50 games Mandatory additional testing
Second positive test 30 days 100 games 25 games
Third positive test 60 days Lifetime ban 80 games
Fourth positive test 1 year ban -- Commissioner’s discretion with arbitration option
Fifth positive test Commissioner’s discretion -- --


I agree that the lack of blood testing is going to prevent them from really catching some guys... but who knows, maybe the severity of the new penalties will discourage players from even risking it?

And I must say, I'm rather shocked that they pushed through the amphetamine testing. That's going to change a lot of stuff in the clubhouses, assuming of course that the test they have for it is reliable.

I believe that the lack of blood testing in the new deal was the key point for the union's capitulation. I could easily see the union taking a hard-line stance on invasive procedures such as blood testing. However, then the McCain crowd might have determined the whole thing for MLB and the union.

Sam, I think there is no urine test currently available that can definitively prove the use of the next wave of performance enhancers such as human growth hormones. I don't know how much of a deterrent stricter penalties are if players know they will in all likelihood go undiscovered.

FPS, since you're a lawyer, how is it that blood tests are more invasive than urine tests? I'm coming from a clinical standpoint where, if the objective is to acquire proof of the use of performance-enhancing substances, any bodily fluid collected is up for grabs and the method used to uncover this use unimportant. Also, don't other unions require testing that includes drawing blood? It's not completely unprecedented, correct?

Simple, you have to go into the body to get the blood. You can merely wait for the body to expel urine. One is invasive, the other is not. The skin becomes the "bright line" that is talked about in law so often.

Not sure about other unions. (Is there a cyclists union?) As it stands, American law sees the taking of blood as invasive, and is protected in many circumstances. Not all, but many.

Also, remember that, in a court of law, one cannot be compelled to give testimony against one's self. Being forced to give blood in order to incriminate yourself has been viewed as a violation of one's Fifth Amendment rights in the criminal context. I think this is why the MLBPA is so opposed to this.

FPS said, "As it stands, American law sees the taking of blood as invasive, and is protected in many circumstances. Not all, but many."

What are those circumstances where blood tests are not considered invasive? Anything analogous to players having their blood tested?

Of course, one can consent to the taking of blood. Also, the issue of paternity cannot be determined other than by a blood test. If my syntax was wrong, please forgive me. It's always considered invasive. However, the taking of blood is protected in certain circumstances. I believe the legal test would be whether the invasiveness of the test is outweighed for the need to invade. (ex. - In paternity, it's the only way to be sure, thus the need outweighs the invasiveness, but in the criminal context, one could obtain existing medical records to prove blood type; thus the need does not outweigh the invasiveness).

Paternity's just a cheek scraping test now. The tests got a lot better about 3 years ago. It costs about $400 for an officer of the court to take the 3 scrapings (mother, child, suspected father) and have the lab test run, or $200 for just the lab test, which isn't admissible in court because the scrapings weren't witnessed.

I wanted to find out more about the NFL's testing policy in comparison with the MLB's. I confirmed that they also do not permit blood testing; this is only a requirement for Olympic athletes. An interesting thing the NFL does that baseball should consider is the storing of samples that can be retested if better methods of detection are developed and/or new substances are discovered.

April 28, 2005 article from the San Francisco Chronicle

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