On the day after Hall of Fame voters denied entry to superstar players from the steroid era, Major League Baseball announced an unprecedented step to catch drug cheats in this era.
MLB and the Players’ Association on Thursday announced an agreement to begin blood tests of players during the regular season to detect human growth hormone (HGH). Also, MLB will expand its efforts to detect abnormally high levels of testosterone.
“This is a proud and a great day for baseball,” commissioner Bud Selig said at the owners’ meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. “We’ll continue to be a leader in this field and do what we have to do. This is remarkable when you think of where we were 10, 12, 15 years ago and where we are today. Nobody could have dreamed it.”
Players’ union chief Michael Weiner, in a statement, said: “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.”
Players already were getting blood tested for HGH during spring training starting in 2012. Random urine tests to detect performance-enhancing drugs began in 2003, with the first suspensions coming in 2005.
Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said each player will be blood tested at least once.
Baseball’s steroid era of the 1990s came back to haunt the sport on Wednesday when some of its biggest stars were not elected to the Hall of Fame because of their associations with PEDs. Seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and seven-time MVP Barry Bonds were among those whose alleged misdeeds off the field overshadowed their epic performances on the field, at least as reflected in the vote totals by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which elected no one.
Now, baseball says it has the toughest drug-test program in American sports. The NFL and its players’ union agreed to HGH testing in 2011, but the process has not begun because of differences of opinion about the science of the blood tests.
MLB has the support of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in the agreement announced on Thursday.
WADA director general David Howman, in a statement, said: “WADA welcomes the decision of Major League Baseball and its players union to expand their drug-testing program for the 2013 season. By agreeing to in-season testing for human growth hormone and introducing longitudinal profiling for testosterone, MLB has significantly increased the effectiveness of its anti-doping program and enhanced its value in terms of deterrence. An anti-doping program can only be considered effective when it is allowed to monitor players the whole year round, and by making these changes the MLB has set a new standard for the other Pro Leagues to follow.”
MLB also will expand its effort to detect testosterone abuse by using a WADA-accredited lab in Montreal to maintain a baseline level of every player to compare with any abnormal urine samples.