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MLB, MLBPA announce stronger testing, harsher penalties for PEDs

Mar 28, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT


In the wake of the Biogenesis scandal and Alex Rodriguez‘s subsequent 162-game suspension, Major League Baseball and many of its players have called for tougher drug testing and harsher suspensions for violations of baseball’s drug policy.

They just got it.

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have announced that they have reached agreement on changes to the drug testing program which enhance testing procedures and increase penalties for taking PEDs.

The enhanced testing procedures

  • The number of in-season random urine collections will more than double beginning in the 2014 season, from 1,400 total tests to to 3,200;
  • Blood collections for hGH detection will increase to 400 random collections per year, in addition to the 1,200 mandatory collections conducted during Spring Training;
  • Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry tests will be randomly performed on at least one specimen from every player. Basically, this is an enhanced analysis of blood samples which are considered more effective in detecting hGH in blood and are tests endorsed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The enhanced 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 baed 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.

MORE: To read the full summary of the MLB-MLBPA joint drug program modifications, click here

There are also some advantages to players under the new system. Specifically, if a player tests positive, he can argue to an arbitrator that his use of PEDs was not intended to enhance performance. This changes things from the “zero tolerance” policy which previously existed and under which someone faced first-time discipline even if their PED use was accidental.

Additionally, the league and the union are creating a safe harbor of sorts: they have established a program in which players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result. This should reduce confusion on banned over-the-counter substances and reduce the use of the “I got this from GNC and thought it was OK” defense many have raised in the past.

Many anti-doping experts already viewed Major League Baseball as having the toughest drug testing regime in all of U.S. team sports. This only increases baseball’s lead in this regard.

It does, however, present some reasons for concern. As we at HBT argued this morning, the playoff ban for those players who tested positive and have already served their entire suspensions seems somewhat draconian and will result in harsher penalties for players on winning teams than those on losing teams. It also punishes innocent players on playoff teams in ways the previous system did not before. Moreover, merely adding games to first and second offenses may make everyone feel like the system is tougher, but it must not be assumed that the same basic incentive to cheat — if a player can get away with it, it could mean millions of dollars — will always persist. We execute murderers yet murder still occurs.

At the same time, the strengthening of the drug testing procedures and the implementation of the supplement supplies is most welcome. If the players in the Biogenesis investigation had been caught via testing, no one would have thought of that episode in baseball as a particularly black mark and a year’s worth of bad publicity and litigation would not have been necessary. The best way to cut down on PED use in baseball is to catch the guys who cheat, not to try to make up for testing failures with harsh rhetoric and tactics after the holes in the drug testing system are exposed.

Either way, this is a significant increase in the strength of the drug testing program and will likely be met with overwhelming praise by players, fans, the media and the clubs.

  1. woodenulykteneau - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    I especially liked the section that detailed the effort MLB will devote to addressing DUIs. You can read it on the sign on Jimmie Dimmick’s front lawn.

    • sabatimus - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      I guess MLB forgot to assign brain detail…

    • dickclydesdale - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      So they increased the vacation time from 50 to 80 games, pretty cool. Even better cheat again & you win a 162 game suspension, just make sure you don’t cheat 3 times because you get a permanent vacation, which would not be bad as long as you collected on most of the multi million dollar contract that the first 2 offenses helped you cash in on.

      • Professor Fate - Mar 29, 2014 at 1:23 AM

        “…unpaid 80-game suspension…”
        “…unpaid 162-game suspension…”
        Not sure how that could be clearer.

  2. barkleyblows - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Uh ohhhhh….. Watch out Ryan Cheateroid!

    • metroplexsouthsider - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:16 PM

      You meant Lyin Ryan Braun?

    • metroplexsouthsider - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      And, given that the Brew Crew was in the playoffs the year Ryan’s precious bodily fluids tested positive but Col. Mandrake cut Fed Ex off at the pass, I disagree totally with Craig on the playoff ban.

      I think it’s great, and will make teams be more serious about what individual players are doing. In other words, managers and GMs … that’s you in the Oakland dugout, Tony La Russa, and you in L.A., Joe Torre, and you in Atlanta, Bobby Cox, have one less excuse now, too. Managers can’t ignore Jose Canseco and the Canseco milkshakes.

      Maybe you can’t patrol everywhere, but, if you think you need to tighten up dugout access, that’s what you do. Off to blog …

  3. rbj1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    I do like the supplements program. Having an alternative of something you can use is much better that just “don’t use this.”

    Is it going to be available in the minors as well?

    • metroplexsouthsider - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      Hopefully, the commish’s office has all this in Spanish and distributes word around the Caribbean. Players from the Dominican, etc., both are encouraged to do something else and have even fewer excuses for not being clean.

  4. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    Specifically, if a player tests positive, he can argue to an arbitrator that his use of PEDs was not intended to enhance performance.

    So wait, if an injured player takes HGH to heal (since it’s shown to not having any performance enhancing abilities in healthy individuals), does that get them the lesser ban? Get off completely?

    • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:37 PM

      Does HGH really help with injuries?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:42 PM

        I believe it helps recover faster, but I’m not a scientist. Would need people like cur to chime in.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:49 PM

        I think “raysfan” down below there is a physician. I wonder what he thinks. A quick and dirty google search has produced a wealth of nearly unreadable journal articles and the usual lay-person “Its a miracle!!!!” type claims. I don’t know what to believe.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:07 PM

        I see you team just signed Aceves. This should be interesting

      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:55 PM

        At present, I don’t believe there is any evidence that HGH speeds healing in adults with normal HGH levels. HGH has not been approved or even suggested to be used to speed healing or recovery from surgery. It has a lot of benefits for people with naturally low HGH levels, but none that are documented for people with naturally normal levels. So far, all of the research suggests that a healthy adult (i.e. one with normal HGH levels) produces all of the HGH the body needs or can effectively use. Supplemental HGH hasn’t been shown to have performance enhancing benefits in healthy adults, additional exogenous HGH actually results in a reduction stamina. There is more evidence that supplemental HGH is a performance inhibitor in individuals with normal natural HGH levels.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:03 PM

        So why then is it banned? They might as well ban Phitin necklaces.

      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:05 PM


      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:08 PM

        There are a LOT of things banned by MLB and WADA that show no performance enhancing effect (e.g. creatine, androdenostione, IGF-1). They would rather put something on the list that has no effect than leave off something that does, which is fine, it is the better kind of error to make. Unfortunately, the public discussion ends there and most people never bother to learn anything about the drugs (I’m looking at you MSM) or the effects of the drugs, they just assume they turn players into superstars, rant, and moralize.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:24 PM

        What paperlions said regarding HGH use to speed healing and that it’s essentially a placebo in terms of use as a PED. People have tried to claim it’s an anti-aging wonder too; it’s not.

    • bennoj - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:58 PM

      Chuch – click the link and read the summary. The short answer to your question is no.

      “If a Player proves by clear and convincing evidence that he bears no significant fault or
      negligence for the presence of the performance-enhancing substance in his test result,
      the Arbitration Panel may reduce the mandated penalty subject to the following: (i) the
      Panel may not reduce the penalty for a first-time violation to fewer than 40 games; (ii)
      the Panel may not reduce the penalty for a second-time violation to fewer than 80
      games; and (iii) the Panel may not reduce the penalty for a third-time violation. The
      Panel shall have no authority to reduce a penalty if the positive test result was for
      Testosterone; human Growth Hormone (hGH); Gonadotropins; Selective Estrogen
      Receptor Modulators; Anti-Estrogens, Boldenone; Nandrolone; and Stanozolol.”

      Unless I’m missing something elsewhere, I don’t think I agree with Craig’s characterization of this as being able to argue it had no performance-enhancing effect, but I see it as the need to convincingly show they had no intent or knowledge of taking the substance.

    • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:34 PM

      I think it’s more for the “I have a legitimate prescription but forgot to properly notify the league” people.

    • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:57 PM

      For one, he should be told he’s an idiot for taking something that to do something that it doesn’t do.

      He would also be very unlucky. I believe the total number of professional athletes in the world that have been caught by random HGH tests remains at zero….so far, the only guys that have been caught were caught because the testing agency was tipped off that he was using.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:32 PM

        Yep, random test positives = 0. It completely metabolizes in 1-3 hours, so it would be an extraordinarily unlucky cheater that gets caught that way, especially when only tested for it 1-2 times a year. The IGF it in turn stimulates only remains elevated maybe 24 hours too.

        Insofar as I know, the only positive at all has been a British rugby player who was fingered and had a for-cause test at just the right time.

    • metroplexsouthsider - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      The PDF says that if a player qualifies for “mitigation,” the normal ban gets cut in half. So, this 40-gamer is still better than the 25-gamer that was first proposed. Also, new items could be added to the banned substance list and more. This is definitely better than what I heard could happen.

  5. raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    I’m good with all I’ve heard so far but want to see the actual agreement. Any word on when that will be available?

    • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 4:58 PM

      Well, one thing I’d like to change–they need to test more frequently even than the new increases indicate.

  6. sisisisisisisi - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    They’ll def catch more cheaters. Thumb up for sure!
    Next on the list for baseball, a cap.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      400 tests for 750 players, and you think they’re going to catch more? Like they caught the Biogenesis guys?

      • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:39 PM

        No, they will likely catch nobody with random HGH testing (that’s the 400 you just mentioned) unless they increase testing exponentially. HGH is useless as a PED anyway (see link in my comment above).

        However, the increased frequency of urine testing and improved testing for synthetic testosterone will make it harder to get away with steroid use. Hopefully there will be fewer positive tests due to fewer people using.

      • linhsiu - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:40 PM

        Increased testing… Increased chance…

        Yes I do believe they will catch more

  7. philsieg - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Marvin Miller must be spinning in his grave.

    • bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:52 PM

      Perhaps but keep in mind it’s the Union’s responsibility to protect ALL the players. And, not merely from the owners. In the case of PEDs they should have understood that they needed to protect the non-PEd users from the users too.

      One has to wonder how many guys lost their roster spot, starting job or stature within the game because they didn’t think to or decided not to use PEDs while their direct competitors decide it was worth the risk. While I can understand a fringe player doing whatever it takes, even violating the law or the rules, to keep his MLB career viable, or a utility player deciding that all he needed was a little extra to be a starter, .. or a starter rationalizing PEDs use to secure that mega contract that was going to change the trajectory of not only his life but that of his children’s and their children and so on … Hell, .. I can even understand a star like A-Rod’s thinking that he had to use to justify that insane contract that Hick’s gave him. But, that doesn’t make it right. I think without exception every player that used PEDs at least violated US law by securing PEDs to further their career and a large percentage of them violated the CBA too. Rationalize it ant way you want but they cheated.

      The Miller’s and the Union’s “never give an inch” attitude wouldn’t allow the Union to work with MLB to kill PEDs before they became a huge problem and it undoubtedly cost unsuspecting players who didn’t use them. Maybe even if MLB and the Union had cooperated things might have been just about the same in terms of PEDs overall effect on baseball. But, spinning Marvin Miller or not, the Union should have known better and protected all the players, .. even from the other players.

      • dparker713 - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        Players have been using PEDs since well before there was even a union. PEDs have been and will continue to be part and parcel of the game.

      • bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Correct, but that isn’t nor should it be a reason to allow it either. To a large extent it will be a question of who’s science is better, the cheaters or the “authorities”. And, my guess is that it’ll be a question of reaction followed by counter reaction followed by …. I work in security and no matter what I do thieves will try to break in. Whatever I do they react which forces me to react. Or, you build a better mouse trap you get smarter mice.

      • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:46 PM

        Marvin Miller was no longer head of the MLBPA after 1982. Players have been using various PEDs since at least the 1950s, earlier if you count scattered individuals using animal testosterone back to the 19th century. However, it was Fay Vincent who first espoused a desire to eliminate PED use in baseball when he was commissioner; that was therefore Donald Fehr at the helm of the MLBPA.

  8. thetxhammer - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    Agree, there should be a set penalty for those who have issues with DUI’s/DWI’s. This doping policy is important, not trying to take away from that.

  9. bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    “If the players in the Biogenesis investigation had been caught via testing, no one would have thought of that episode in baseball as a particularly black mark and a year’s worth of bad publicity and litigation would not have been necessary.”

    MLB year’s worth of bad publicity was more the result of their own underhanded dealings, .. the leaks to the press trying to smear A-Rod, .. the “investigation” that was any anything goes, the ends justify the means effort. Had they stayed out of the media and stuck to the so called confidentiality of the CBA/JDA where is the bad publicity? MLB decided to fight this in the press by the worst pissible means. You will note that there is nothing here regarding what happens to MLB officials that get caught violating the CBA/JDA by talking to the press.

    At the end of the day I’m glad that MLB and the Union tightened up the rules and I have no problem wit the stiffer penalties. Including the one where a player is barred from the playoffs. Will it hurt his team, yes. Will it punish winning teams more than losing teams, absolutely. It will also hold players accountable to their teammates which actually might be more effective at dissuading players from cheating. Too bad the Union didn’t do more to protect the non-cheating players 20 years ago. Had they we might have avoided some of the nonsense of the last year.

    We can all pontificate ad nauseam about PED cheaters today versus amphetamine users, bat corkers and spitballers or ball scuffers of the past but in the end I’d prefer that baseball is more God given talent and willingness to work and train hard than a chemistry experiment. Yet, even with these new sanctions considering whats at stake and advances in PEDs I’m sure this isn’t close to over.

    • jimeejohnson - Mar 28, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Appreciate your insight. Thanks.

    • raysfan1 - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:49 PM

      My only dispute with any of your comment is separating “PEDs” and amphetamines. Amphetamines are PEDs.

      • bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:50 PM

        I agree amphetamines are PEDs too. It’s merely my way of delineating different eras. Amphetamines began after WWII and were institutionalized in MLB through the next four decades. while steroids generally began wide spread use in the 80s.

        Regardless of whether ones performance is chemically enhanced or is the result of modified equipment via spit, cork or scuffing cheating is cheating.

  10. spg3081 - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:11 PM


    Why is a salary cap next on MLB’s to do list? So the owners can save money by having a reason to keep salaries low? The current system isn’t perfect but a cap won’t be either. It’ll lead to players being even more transient than they are now. Leave a cap for the NBA owners who need to be protected from themselves & for the NFL owners who are constantly looking for ways to pocket more revenue and ways to get out of the expensive contracts that they authorized.

    • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:01 PM

      The owners wouldn’t want a salary cap. Any cap will be tied to revenues NOT a fixed amount, and every year a smaller portion of the revenues go to the players, greatly benefiting the owners. In addition, there would have to be a floor as well, and many teams couldn’t meet the floor unless MLB greatly enhances revenue sharing because most of the profits in MLB are from local media deals, not from national ones that are spread evenly throughout the league.

  11. bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    “So the owners can save money by having a reason to keep salaries low?”

    Why not. I like he Yankees but I’d like them more if the Steinbrenners were richer!

  12. righthandofjustice - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:40 PM

    Increasing the length of the suspension and frequency of tests sounds fair.
    Allowing the cheaters to cut the suspension in half to 25 games is a farce. Only idiots will not take advantage of this loophole. Now, MLBPA has to fire Horowitz and appoint a new arbitrator or else all ruling will be in favor of MLB.

    Extending the suspension through post-season is also not fair to the team. A better idea is to toughen testing on the cheater’s teammates and also suspend team officials if they are found guilty turning a blind eye, or encouraging their players to cheat.

  13. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 28, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    It’s a band aid at best. There are still too many issues that need to be resolved. And saying it’s the best isn’t saying much since. I’ll copy/paste part of my comment from yesterday.

    “What about the fact that a player can be tested twice in the first month (Once in spring training), and then KNOW they will never be tested again and are free to use what they want when they want? How about randomizing both the number of tests, the players tested, the location of tests, and the frequency of tests to prevent players from being able to avoid detection by simply following a organized protocol as is what occurred in the Bio-genesis case? Will clauses be added to punish those who lie to the commissioner’s office or otherwise impede an investigation? What about those that bribe officials, or set up fake websites to hide the purchase of steroids? What about those that falsely and improperly attack those that collect the samples? What about punishing a guy who gets suspended on a contract year? What about reducing the financial motivations of a player to not illegally use a substance? How about we make sure the teams have no vested interest in looking the other way, or even helping a player avoid detection? How about ensuring the players have a save and anonymous method of reporting suspicious activity and are taught to speak if you see? What safeguards are being put into place to ensure the commissioner’s office is following accepted protocol and rules and regulations in their investigation against a particular player and are not simply acting out of some sort of personal vendetta all secret police catch-22 style??

    • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      Regardless of the perceived problem, a smaller percentage of baseball players are using PED now than at any time over the last 40+ years. People can complain about cheaters all they way, but the fact still remains that during the last decade, baseball has been cleaner than it has been since the 1950s.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:16 PM

        …We think. Yes there’s testing, but Biogenesis proved that testing wasn’t adequate. This does help, but too many loop holes and it’s too easy for a player to figure out when testing is going to occur. My biggest problem through all of this has been the commisioners office overstepping their bounds…and getting away with it.

      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM

        True, but before it was impossible to be caught or punished, and anyone willing to talk about PED use says that it was common (both steroids and amphetamines). The biggest difference is that players started to work out more and better, not that they took more and better PEDs (you really can’t improve on amphetamines and testosterone). While some players may be more sophisticated in their use of PEDs, the biggest deterrent to such things it the likelihood of being caught…which used to be zero and is now…well…more than that….but still, obviously, very low.

  14. sabatimus - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:04 PM

    Here’s an intriguing question: if a player on Team X gets banned 80 games and the postseason, and Team X wins the World Series, does he get a ring?

    • paperlions - Mar 28, 2014 at 7:09 PM

      Up to the team, but if he played in games during the season, it’d be hard to not give him one based on general practices. Plenty of guys get rings when they were traded mid-season and didn’t play in the post-season at all.

      • bigharold - Mar 28, 2014 at 11:54 PM

        A better question is is a player gets an 80 game suspension that carries into the next season is he ineligible for the playoffs both years? I would guess he is but I’m wondering if that’s what the Union had in mind when it agreed to the playoff ban.

      • paperlions - Mar 29, 2014 at 9:52 AM

        I brought that up in the thread about post-season bans. I haven’t seen anything that is specific, but to me, the language means if you miss 1 or more games in a season due to a PED suspension, then you are ineligible for the post-season that year…which means that about 1/2 of the suspensions will result in missing 2 post seasons.

  15. bbk1000 - Mar 29, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    I didn’t realize there were 160 games a season……

  16. jeff10461 - Mar 29, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    Until there is a multi-year suspension (or maybe lifetime) for a first time offense this will continue to be a problem. As long as using PED’s enhances a players career despite the penalty of getting caught they’ll continue to use them.

  17. apeville - Mar 29, 2014 at 3:29 PM

    Did I read somewhere that corking bas doesn’t actually work?

    In any case- more severe PED penalties are welcome.

  18. apeville - Mar 29, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    CORKING BATS. And please, no corking of bass.

  19. jackbenny1 - Jul 22, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    MLB may have most stringent drug penalties in sports but what good is it if the testing is no good.When’s the last time an MLB player got caught through normal testing. Two years? Only Biogenesis gave MLB some power but left the black mark on baseball as you indicate. Meanwhile, PED use has spread with the #SFGiants still leading the way with more teams now following in their footsteps. See how Giants got to and won two World Series thanks to PEDs and are still going after PED players… see The Good, Bad and #UGGLA – Will #SFGiants Find ‘Lightning in A BOTTLE’ Again? >>>

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