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Major League Baseball releases its annual drug test report

Nov 29, 2013, 3:22 PM EDT


The annual public report from the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program’s Independent Program Administrator has been released by Major League Baseball. The stats:

  • There were 5,391 total drug tests. 4,022 were urine samples, 1,369 were blood samples;
  • There were eight positive tests resulting in discipline. All were for stimulants. Seven of the stimulant tests were for Adderall. One for Methylhexaneamine. I guess that means that there are no more steroids in baseball. Yay!
  • There were 13 “non-analytical positives.” That’s baseball code for “Biogenesis dudes.”
  • There were 122 therapeutic use exemptions for otherwise banned drugs.  119 of them were for ADD drugs like Adderall. Three were three for hypogonadism. A couple of years ago here was only one for hypogonadism, so that’s on the uptick. On the bright side, two years ago there was a therapeutic use exemption for narcolepsy and now there is none. So the narcoleptic either got better or retired.

The most interesting thing here, to me anyway, continues to be the number of Adderall-users in baseball. It’s estimated that 4.7% of the adult population has ADD. 119 of roughly 1,200 major leaguers on 40-man rosters puts the ADD rate at nearly 10%. Back that number down a little bit for the various guys that shuffle in and out of 400-man rosters and you figure that baseball players have ADD diagnosis at around twice the level of that in the normal population.

Are baseball players more likely to have ADD than the rest of the adult population? Are they just more likely to be diagnosed that way? Or are therapeutic use exemptions for ADD drugs a means of getting something ballplayers have always found beneficial — stimulants — in a legal way?

  1. slaugin - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    I’d be willing to bet there are more adults with ADD that choose not to use medication for the type of job they have, also not everyone has health insurance and can afford to get the medication

    • 3bogart - Nov 30, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      4.1 percent is the 12-month prevalence of Adult AD(H)D. LIFETIME prevalence is 8.1 percent, according to the National Institutes of Health: My son’s board certified pediatrician recommended ‘active sports’ as a partial remedy for his ADHD. He was 6. By age 9, he was under the care of a child psychiatrist. It took a year to work out the correct dose of dexedrine sustained release after he failed his 4th grade reading proficiency (his IQ tests in the Superior to Gifted range). Then we moved to a district that ‘didn’t believe in medicating children’ and resisted giving him the at-school dose, making a big show in front of classmates that it was time to ‘go to the office and take your medicine.’ The capsule started coming home in his pocket. I signed him up for hockey. Today, he’s 28 and a great hockey player. He’s not on medication, but his ADHD is a constant frustration for him. Had he pursued baseball instead, and ADHD teammates were finding success with ‘stimulant’ medication, he might be willing to try available treatment for this biological disorder. No one courts being stigmatized for behavioral symptoms they can’t help.

  2. mikhelb - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    Not a good sign for baseball when just 6 out of 19 of the suspended players were caught with analytic tests.

    On top of it, there were a few repeat offenders who weren’t suspended.

    I wonder if they were the whistleblowers who helped caught cheaters who did not test positive.

    • mikhelb - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      UPS it says “8” plus “13” non analytical, at first I read 6 plus 13.

      Still, 8 out of 21 is a small number.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        Take your Adderall before posting :)

  3. Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    We can’t assume that the rate of the regular Adult population is the same for Ball players. Maybe the pool of talented baseball playing males is more likely to suffer from ADD? Also, I figure it makes no difference but I suppose the ADD figures are roughly the same for adult female and male populations? Also, do we know if Latin American baseball populations are skewing data? There’s a lot of stuff to consider here.

    • paperlions - Nov 29, 2013 at 4:07 PM

      I am willing to bet that your typical elite athlete is less likely to have ADD or ADHD than a normal person, because having one of those afflictions would negatively affect the person’s ability to perform at an elite level.

      It is worth noting that BEFORE stimulant testing began, the % of players asking for exemptions based on medical diagnosis of ADD or ADHD was similar to that of the general population. As soon as testing began, the number of MLB players asking for medical exemptions doubled. That. Is suspicious.

      • Francisco (FC) - Nov 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

        Oh I tend toward the suspicious, but is it possible that before testing began, guys were simply taking it thinking they wouldn’t need an exemption, and then when testing began, many realized now they needed the actual Rx? Is it possible the general population is under-diagnosed? I’ll note that in recent years we seem to have improved detection and diagnosis of these afflictions.

        I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to argue the other side to this. What would you look for to disprove the notion? And should MLB try to aggressively determine whether many of the exemptions are actually justified?

      • paperlions - Nov 29, 2013 at 4:22 PM

        I really don’t know. What I do know is that starting in the minors, baseball players have far better medical care than most people, so you figure if ADHD was a problem, teams would have diagnosed it and guys would have the necessary meds and it would all be on the team’s books regardless. But…maybe not.

        I really have no idea if the general population is under-diagnosed or not, but because doctors (as a group) see so hip to doling out diagnoses and drugs, with both doctors and patients being encouraged by drug companies….like the endless string of commercials that end with “ask your doctor about…”, which is crap, because if you had the condition and a decent doctor, then he would have diagnosed you and prescribed appropriate meds without prompting from the patient.

        Really, I think in this case it is hard to know if either population is accurately diagnosed, since doctors are so prone to hand out diagnoses upon request. My wonderful (that is sarcasm) doctor justifies his tendency to want to throw drugs at everything by repeatedly stating that the side-effects profile of such and such is very low so the potential benefits out weigh any risk of side effects…..seemingly ignoring if the drug is needed at all.

      • rbj1 - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        I’m looking at it from a different angle. ADD are the fidgety boys in grade school. Best way for them to sit still in class is to burn off their energy at recess (sadly cut in most modern schools) and playing sports. Ergo, the best of them become pro athletes and have the discipline, but still have ADD.

        The quiet ones who do their homework on time and study become accountants. How many accountants have ADD? I’d bet far fewer, because ADDers can’t sit still.

        Look at Babe Ruth. He wasn’t sent to an orphanage because he was an orphan, but because he was too much of a handful for his parents. I’m willing to bet a cream soda that today he would have been diagnosed with ADD and given pills. Instead he found baseball and the rest, as they say, is history.

    • missingdiz - Nov 29, 2013 at 6:31 PM

      Males are three times as likely to suffer from ADD as females. So it seems the % of MLB players with ADD isn’t really out of line one way or the other.

      • janicerayewilliams - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:15 AM

        I agree. As a special education teacher, I’ve seen many more boys than girls diagnosed in elementary schools. At least 7% of boys ages 5-10, show signs and symptoms of ADHD while girls who are diagnosed tend to exhibit symptoms of ADD more often. As ADHD boys age and enter grades 6-10, they become less willing to take the medication – unless they want to play sports. They are able to work through the hyperactivity with all of the activity in sports, but they focus and play better with the medication, and are better able to stay in and finish school. The rise in numbers of exemptions for ADHD meds has occurred along with the offering of exemptions and willingness of players with ADHD to take the meds since there is still a stigma attached to doing so.

  4. thepoolshark - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Here is a big reason why steroid users have NOT been getting caught:

    A new test for Roids, and suddenly 260 new users get caught?

    Which proves that the users’ chemists are always ahead of the testing procedures.

    So we can bet our sweet bippies there are many many MLB players still using. I expect many more positive tests this coming year if the above story is any indication.

    The big contracts being given to Biogenesis guys proves the owners don’t give a dang about it, and in fact probably just hope their stars have great chemists, who can stay ahead of the newest tests.

    Until we have a new JDA…say 1st strike/2-year suspension, 2nd strike you’re OYT forever…the risk/reward/punishment/owners attitude equation is doing little to retard steroid use. In Latin America you can get them over the counter and this also needs to be stopped. Agents down there are probably handing out Roid lollipops to 12 year olds as far as we know.

  5. Carl Hancock - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    “I am willing to bet that your typical elite athlete is less likely to have ADD or ADHD than a normal person, because having one of those afflictions would negatively affect the person’s ability to perform at an elite level.”

    Wrong. First off ADD and ADHD are two different things. They may share some of the same issues, but they aren’t the same thing.

    You are also wrong that ADD would prevent an athlete from performing at a high level. I have ADD. I was never diagnosed as a child and didn’t start taking medication for it until I was an adult. I have a form of ADD that causes hyper focus. Hyper focus could most definitely aid an elite athlete in performing at a high level, especially when it comes to training and repetitive drills.

    However, it can also be a hindrance to interacting with those around you. In my case, I could completely block out everything around me and focus purely on what I was working on. Which is great in some situations, but not when you are running a business and you’re ignoring people trying to have a conversation with you without even noticing.

    I was prescribed Adderall and it has helped. I can still stay extremely focused but am more aware of what is going on around me, so it has helped in that regard. Although my doctors has said my form of ADD has also contributed to me being so successful at what I do for a living.

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there is a greater percentage of those with forms of ADD or ADHD in professional athletics. While most people focus on the negatives, there are actually some positives to both and some of them can benefit athletes.

    My form of ADD for instance would be a great trait for an athlete.

    I’m sure there are players getting medical exemptions that don’t need them, and there are certainly children diagnosed with ADD or ADHD that don’t actually have it. But to say the larger percentage means most of them are gaming the system isn’t necessarily true.

    • psychologyofsports - Nov 30, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      I think it is great that you shared your personal experiences about ADD it certainly broadens the discussion.
      I do want to try and clarify a few things, First under no circumstances does anyone want to have a biological or medical condition for which they have to take medication. It is in no way enhancing. In fact there are side effects to any medication you take. That said there are people who have this condition who live normal lives, function and so on.
      I think the concept of “hyperfocus” needs to perhaps be clarified. The reason this occurs is because the brain is under-stimulated and seeks stimulation that is one form of ADD. It is not because they are bored. In fact boredom is contra-indicated in this disorder and is indicative of other things that are going on with the individual.
      There are others forms of ADD that are going to be delineated in the new DSM5 which is coming out.
      Finally, no form of ADD would help any athlete or student. It is a biologically based disorder that is overly diagnosed and treated. I work directly with people who have this condition.
      As many are mentioning in their posts and wisely a subset of athletes are always going to look for a competitive edge.
      Once again I want to thank you for taking the time to discuss this matter and add to the discussion.
      Dr. Richard Lustberg

  6. Carl Hancock - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    As for the idea that steroids have been eliminated from the game based on the results? Far from it. The stupid ones get caught. There are ways to use PED’s and not get caught. As long as there is money to be made in professional athletics (and the Olympics for that matter) there will be chemists coming up with ways to gain the system and make money off of these athletes. That’s just the reality of it.

  7. Carl Hancock - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    These comments made me think about Brendan Ryan, current Yankees shortstop and former Cardinal. He was basically ran out of St. Louis because the other players couldn’t handle his ADHD anymore. It was that bad. But it was also what helped him become a professional athlete. Here’s a news article on him where he even discusses how ADHD when he was younger was like drinking tons of coffee.., it obviously aided his athletics and was a benefit to him in trying to channel that energy into baseball…,6849429

  8. Carl Hancock - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    For those of you who don’t know just how bad Brendan Aryan’s ADHD is… he once forget where his glove was when he was supposed to be taking the field with Chris Carpenter pitching. Anyone knows Carp knows he’s a bulldog and let’s just say he wasn’t exactly happy about the delay.

    Carpenter had already finished his warm ups and was ready to go to work. Pitchers don’t like their routine broken. He was ready to pitch and Ryan wasn’t at his position. Then when he finally took the field he had the wrong glove! So there was another delay while he got the correct glove.

    Let’s just say Chris Carpenter had some choice words for his Shortstop. Here’s the article on MLB:

    Ryan was traded to Seattle after that season.

    • janicerayewilliams - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:30 AM

      Carp’s ” Tunnel Talk” with Ryan is famously well-known by long-time Cardinals fans!

  9. andyreidisfat - Nov 29, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Is the jacka$$ who defends roid user at every turn really bringing up ADD meds ? Seriously ?

    • janicerayewilliams - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      Really!! ADHD medications leave the body’s system within hours. Steroids last for weeks or up to a month or two. Human growth hormone, HGH, changes cell nuclei, enlarges cells, enhances strength, and extends stamina for years. Proven in the UK, Australia, and European countries through research. I don’t guess MLB pays any attention to those reports. IMO MLB, quite a few players, some owners, and more fans than I would have thought are OK with anything that makes the game more exciting, more financially profitable, and more newsworthy. Money talks and money also hides wrong-doing well. It’s a business, remember.

      • gymtruthteller - Nov 30, 2013 at 5:02 PM

        Exactly. MLB is hiding positive tests to protect the names and they have done this before

  10. Ryan Kelley - Nov 29, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Maybe, baseball is boring and they need Adderall to stay awake.

  11. 4d3fect - Nov 29, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    That’s a record high number of Adderall cases.

  12. psychologyofsports - Nov 29, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    Disgraceful and another way of cheating–here is my take–

  13. tuucamaron - Nov 30, 2013 at 8:57 AM

    baseball is the cleanest sport,MLB rules

  14. voidhelix - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    I`m glad you think Narcolepsy`s funny Craig Calcatera, the player involved was the Milwaukee Brewers reliever, Zach Braddock. A man who, because of his sleep condition had to retire at age 24. He was a promising pitcher. Glad you get a kick out of the misfortune of others. You should be fired for that.

  15. skinsfolife - Nov 30, 2013 at 2:48 PM

    Getting adderall is expensive. The number of ADHD/ADD people are probably much greater. With Obama care doctors are no longer accepting insurance for adderall visits so the initial consult normally costs soomewhere in the 300.00 range which many families can not afford.

  16. gymtruthteller - Nov 30, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    Players are either finding away around the cheating or MLB is hiding the positive tests to save face for the names of the game

    They did it before ( telling the Yankees when the tests were coming)

  17. keltictim - Dec 1, 2013 at 7:14 AM

    Voidhelix narcolepsy is always funny unless your the passenger and they are driving. Please remove panties from your crack

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