MLB News

Why MLB has stopped testing players for steroids during the owner-imposed lockout

Testing for performance-enhancing drugs and other banned substances under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement has stopped during the owners’ lockout, the Associated Press reported Monday. The JDA expired at 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 1, the same time as the collective bargaining agreement. It is the first time in roughly 20 years baseball has not had a drug testing program in place.

“It should be a major concern to all those who value fair play,” US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart told the AP. “… You could easily do what the cyclists were doing even in a good testing program, which was microdosing of testosterone. You can do testosterone gels or oral pills that could be out of your system and you can do more in maybe weeks.”

Baseball players, including non-40-man roster players, are randomly tested for banned substances all year, even in the offseason, when the JDA is in place. Going into the lockout, it was unknown whether drug testing would continue during the work stoppage, though other sports did not test during their lockouts. From our lockout primer:

There is no definitive answer on (PED testing) yet but it is considered unlikely MLB will be able to test players for banned substances during the lockout. For what it’s worth, players were not drug tested during the most recent NFL and NHL lockouts. Under the collectively bargained joint drug agreement players are randomly tested for banned substances year-round, with additional tests possible when probable cause exists.

The owners locked out the players immediately upon the CBA’s expiration, so there has been no drug testing in place for two months now. Players could be taking banned substances now, though keep in mind the lockout could end at any time, and regular testing would likely resume shortly after. That said, it doesn’t appear the lockout is ending anytime soon.

More than 8,400 drug tests were administered to 40-man roster players in 2021 and five resulted in positives: Marlins pitcher Paul CampbellAthletics outfielder Ramón Laureano, Mariners lefty Héctor Santiago, Giants righty Gregory Santos, and Rockies infielder Colton Welker. (Mets second baseman Robinson Canó tested positive late in 2020.)

MLB and the MLBPA first agreed to a testing program in 2002, which called for survey testing in 2003. Penalties were implemented in 2004 and they’ve gradually increased in severity. At one point first offenders were given a 10-game suspension. Now it’s 80 games for a first offense. The JDA was later expanded to cover amphetamines and human growth hormone as well.

Star players understandably get all the attention with PEDs, though many players who have tested positive over the years are fringe roster types trying to either get to the big leagues or stay in the big leagues. They have the most to gain from PEDs, potentially.

Spring training is scheduled to begin in about a week, but it is all but certain to be delayed at this point. It won’t be long before the lockout threatens regular season games.




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