Pro sports drug testing: MLB

January 2, 2013, 4:15 pm
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When the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame candidates were announced, premium gasoline was thrown onto an already fiery debate as to whether Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Sammy Sosa, the poster children of baseball’s steroid era, are worthy of joining the greats of the game.

Early on January 9th, the baseball nation will know if diamond immortality has come to this tainted trio. 

The sports world has flipped the calendar to 2013. Without some amazing set of circumstances, players in the big four sports will most likely run afoul of the testing protocols put in place by their teams, league offices and governing bodies. 

[RELATED: Photo gallery -- Worst sports moments of 2012]

Major League Baseball is the most scrutinized of all the leagues for their drug testing programs. We know the real and imagined back stories of PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) that started in 1998 during the “Home Run War” between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.

How do leagues find out who is cheating?
What are the basics of the tests?
How and when are the players tested?
What are the penalties?

I thought it might make some sense to go through the major sports and outline the basics of the drug testing protocols.

in 2012, Oakland  A’s Pitching veteran Bartolo Colon and 2012 All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera received 50 game suspensions for the use of FAST (Fast Acting Synthetic Testosterone).
In the spring of 2006 an agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and the Treatment Office of the Commissioner's office was negotiated. This started the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment agreement which set the standards for testing and setting penalties for the use of PEDs in MLB.

All major league players can be tested for PEDS which include steroids, stimulants and other listed drugs under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Major League managers, coaches and other clubhouse personnel can be tested. This testing began in 2008 based on recommendations from the Mitchell Report. The tests are administered by Independent Private Administrators (IPA). The IPAS test for over three consecutive years and penalties are meted out by the commissioner.

Up until last November, player testing for steroids and drugs of abuse were administered by urine testing. Now the MLBPA and MLB have agreed to blood testing to root out those taking HGH (human growth hormone). These tests can take place between spring training and the end of the season but penalties can cross over to the following season.

This testing is not done on a random basis unless there is reasonable cause. The IPAs vote and if they believe there is enough evidence, they must administer the test within 48 hours following the vote.

The list of banned substances includes 70 types of steroids, 50 types of stimulants. The “Drugs of Abuse” are:
THC, Hashish and Marijuana.
Synthetic THC & Cannabimimetics.
Opiates: Heroin, Morphine, Oxycodone & Codeine.

The suspected player must come to the collector and is then given an hour where he can drink only 15 ounces of fluid presented in a sealed container given by the IPA. A player becomes “positive” when his urine meets testing criteria, fails to cooperate with IPA, or tampers/substitutes his sample.

There are three separate categories for MLB penalties:
1) Failure to comply with the treatment program
2) Positive steroid test
3) Conviction for using prohibited substances

Failure to comply with treatment programs
First noncompliance: 15-25 game suspension and or fine of $10,000.
Second incidence: 25-50 game suspension and or fine of $25,000.
Third: 50-75 game suspension and or fine of $50,000.
Fourth: One year suspension plus a $100,000 fine. 

Positive Steroid testing result
First incidence: 50 game suspension
Second incidence: 100 game suspension
Third incidence: Lifetime ban

Conviction for use of prohibited substances
First: 15-30 games and or a $10,000 fine.
Second: 30-90 games and or $50,000 fine.
Third: One year suspension and $100K fine.
Fourth: Two year suspension.

Penalized players receive no pay during the term of their suspensions. 

Coming in the next installment 
The Drug testing environment in the three other pro leagues and the Olympics.