Major League Baseball and the MLBPA continue to push forward in trying to clean up the game of baseball the best as it can. The two sides agreed to stronger, more frequent testing, as well as stiffer penalties for those to be found using performance enhancing drugs. The changes to the program, already considered to be one of the most rigorous in sports, are as follows:
Changes to testing procedures
- Beginning in the 2014 season, random in-season urine sample collecting will more than double, from 1,400 total tests to 3,200.
- Blood collection, used in HGH testing, will increase to 400 samples per year. This is in addition to the 1,200 mandatory samples collected during Spring Training.
- Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry tests will randomly be preformed on one sample from each player. The test is a more thorough blood analysis in detecting HGH, and are endorsed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Major League Baseball is widely considered to have one of the most intense testing programs in organized sports in the United States. With that being said, the Biogenesis scandal exposed many holes in the testing the system. To go along with the changes in testing are harsher penalties.
Changes to punishment
- A first-time violation of the Joint Drug Program will now result in an unpaid 80-game suspension, increased from 50 games. A player’s second violation will result in an unpaid 162-game suspension, increased from 100 games. A third violation will result in a permanent suspension from Baseball.
- A suspension of 162 games will result in 183 days worth of pay docking, to account for the fact that players are paid based on a 183-day schedule as opposed to being paid per game. This was implemented in reaction to Alex Rodriguez still receiving some pay this year despite a 162-game ban.
- Every player whose suspension for a performance-enhancing substance is upheld will be subject to six additional unannounced urine collections, and three additional unannounced blood collections, during every subsequent year of his entire career.
In addition, any player suspended for the season will NOT be eligible for the playoff roster. There is some talk that this may be unfair to a player if he completes his suspension and his team makes the playoffs that his ban essentially is extended. My defense would be a) the player isn’t one of the ones that got you to the playoffs. And b) if the player hasn’t played most or all of the season, would you want them on the playoff roster anyway? Unless a situation similar to the Tigers and Jhonny Peralta happens again this year, the argument may be irrelevant.
In addition, the new system also has some protection in place for the players. If a player tests positive, he can argue to the arbitrator that his positive test result was not intentional or intended to enhance performance. This changes the “zero tolerance” that existed under the previous system. To go along with these changes, baseball has established a program in which players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result. Players will no longer have the defense of “ignorance” or not knowing the supplement they were taking was banned.
One of the most positive things to come from these changes is that both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA agreed to this. One side didn’t have to sell it to the other. It appears that both sides are intent on cleaning up the game of baseball for its fans, and to protect its history. There will still be cheaters. Someone will still try to work the system. If someone can make money on “beating the system”, someone will try. But the fact that baseball is unified in overcoming the epidemic shows the respect for the game of baseball that it deserves.