Major League Baseball and its players’ union agreed on random, in-season blood testing for human growth hormone in an expansion of the sport’s antidrug program.
The package also will add procedures to detect improper testosterone use by players, MLB and the union said in a joint news release.
The announcement bolsters baseball’s position as having the strictest drug rules of the four major U.S. professional leagues. It also comes a day after Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the two most decorated players in baseball history, were snubbed for the sport’s Hall of Fame because of ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
“I am proud that our system allows us to adapt to the many evolving issues associated with the science and technology of drug testing,” baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to maintain a leadership stature in antidoping efforts in the years ahead.”
Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLB Players Association, said in November that stricter drug rules probably would be announced before the 2013 season.
“Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair,” Weiner said in a statement today. “I believe these changes firmly support the players’ desires while protecting their legal rights.”
The sport has authorized the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Montreal laboratory to establish a program to track players’ baseline testosterone/epitestosterone ratios, which will help detect when impermissible testosterone or other substances are being used.
Testosterone is a naturally occurring strength builder, and use of artificial or injected versions of the substance have been found in cases involving 2011 National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun, All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitcher Bartolo Colon.
HGH is considered a performance-enhancing drug because of its ability to grow muscle and aid recovery after training. It’s not detectable in urine, unlike anabolic steroids.
Tests for HGH in the major leagues have been limited to the offseason and spring training. Minor-league players have been tested since 2010, and former New York Mets first baseman Mike Jacobs became the first minor-leaguer to fail an HGH test, in August 2011. Neither the National Football League, the National Basketball Association nor the National Hockey League test for HGH.
Penalties for drug use weren’t changed. Players are given a 50-game suspension for a first positive test, 100 games for a second positive and a lifetime ban from the game for a third infraction.
Today’s announcement comes more than five years after former U.S. Senator George Mitchell issued a report following a 21-month investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
Among Mitchell’s findings was that New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte received HGH injections in 2002 while recovering from an elbow injury. Pettitte verified the claims two days later.
Pettitte told a U.S. congressional committee in December 2007 that he and Clemens, a 354-game winner with a record seven Cy Young Awards as his league’s best pitcher, both used HGH, a claim Clemens denied. Clemens, whose name was mentioned 82 times in Mitchell’s report, in June 2012 was acquitted of lying to Congress about performance-enhancing drug use.
He and Bonds, a record seven-time National League Most Valuable Player who was convicted in April 2010 by a federal jury in San Francisco of obstructing a probe of drug use by pro athletes, both were passed over for Hall induction, each getting less than half the vote percentage needed.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted not to enshrine any major-leaguers this year.
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