Bud Selig may not have the nerve that Roger Goodell has, but he certainly has something that the NFL sheriff does not, and that is a working relationship with the Players’ Union. Major League Baseball has enjoyed a fine run of labor peace and has parlayed that into the ability to work together to get things done quickly and for the betterment of the game.
Such has been the case with the way the two have interacted in regards to steroid testing and the appropriate punishments. Sure, it can easily be pointed out that the two parties only truly came together once pushed by Congress to do so, but since that time, they have acted swiftly to make sure that everything is in order to keep the game fair.
On Thursday, MLB and the MLB Player’s Association announce they had reached agreement on some revisions to the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The following are the changes and my personal reactions to each piece.
• Adding HGH blood testing during spring training, during the off-season, and for reasonable cause. The parties also agreed to study expanding HGH testing to the regular season.
Frag’s Take – HGH was the hot button issue during these meetings and the two sides came to an agreement, and I like that they wrote it into the program. I am curious as to what would justify “reasonable cause”, as it is somewhat vague and I can’t see suspicion of use falling under that term, but it at least gives the league and option during the regular season. While this is a step forward, it still feels like they are testing the waters and seeing how rampant usage is before they expand more into the regular season.
• Increasing the number of random tests during the season and off-season.
Frag’s Take – I love the fact that they want to test more often and on surprise visit both during the regular season and off-season. I’ve always thought that the off-season testing was the key here, as to me, this is the opportune time for a player to lapse and “ramp up”.
• Modifying the collection procedures of the program to clarify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, and how specimens should be stored prior to delivery to the courier.
Frag’s Take – This is important in the wake of the Ryan Braun fiasco. Having a clear set of steps, including approved methods of deviation are key to both protecting the player and also dotting all the “I’s” along the way.
• Modifying the appeals procedures of the program, including the circumstances under which procedural deviations will result in the invalidation of test results.
Frag’s Take – Hello Mr. Braun, can you say loophole closed? Nothing draws the commissioner’s ire more than having his judgment overturned and Braun’s winning appeal did just that. The independent arbitrator was fired and the commissioner’s office was pissed. You cannot tell me that this was not the first item discussed during these meetings.
• Creating an expert panel of recognized ADD/ADHD experts to advise the Independent Program Administrator on therapeutic use exemption applications for ADD/ADHD medications, and another expert panel of medical professionals to advise the IPA on TUE applications for other medications.
Frag’s Take – Another loophole closed. One excuse player’s were using when positive tests arose is that ADHD meds were responsible for the positive test. This panel will be responsible for not only making sure that the player fits the needs for said medications, but that said medications in turn would trigger a false positive.
• Strengthening the protocols for addressing use by players of drugs of abuse.
Frag’s Take – Substances of abuse have always been an open book type of situation for the commissioner’s office and as such, became a sticky situation with dealing with the players’ union once a suspension was levied. By defining what the commissioner can and cannot do, it opens the doors for a cleaner way of dealing with players once a punishment is in order, putting everyone on notice that these items won’t be tolerated either.
• Permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player’s positive test result or discipline.
Frag’s Take – Finally! Sure, it truly has no bearing on the suspension itself whether the player got busted with human growth hormone, testosterone, etc. However, if you are going to dance with the devil, and then you should have to wear the scarlet letter to go along with it. The players put themselves into the situation and should wear that badge of shame.
• Making players who are suspended for violating the Program prior to the All-Star Break (including during spring training and the preceding off-season) ineligible to be elected or selected for the All-Star Game.
Frag’s Take – This does not really have any bearing the on the players themselves as much as it does their wallets. Most players have bonuses written into their contracts that rewards them for selection to the All-Star Game, so by taking it away from them, the penalty stiffens when combined with the loss of paycheck from the 50-game suspension. Then there is the added bonus that the money gets paid out to a clean player that truly deserves the honor.
• Establishing a protocol for evaluating and treating players who may suffer from an alcohol use problem or who have engaged in off-field violent conduct.
Frag’s Take – Now in all honesty, this is the one piece I was happiest to see. Baseball has had some major issues over the last decade or so (or perhaps longer and it just hasn’t been in our faces like it is now) in regards to players and driving under the influence. Now, not all of these players have an issue, but fostering an environment where they can freely get help would be beneficial in curbing the issue. I’d like to see baseball set up a peer network with some of the past players that are willing to help a young guy also.
So what do you think of the new additions and changes to the MLB steroid policies? Do they strengthen the program? Are they enough?