Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced today that, effective immediately, minor league players will be subject to random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone. The sport's minor league drug prevention and treatment program will manage the testing and assess penalties, as they already do for performance-enhancing substances and so-called drugs of abuse.
According to a Major League Baseball press release, the various minor leagues become the first professional sports leagues in the United States to conduct blood testing.
The National Center for Drug Free Sport, the organization that currently performs all urine sample collections under the minor league drug program, will perform all blood sample collections. All blood samples will be collected post-game from the non-dominant arms of randomly selected players (among those not on 40-man rosters). Blood samples will be shipped to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City for analysis.
“The implementation of blood testing in the minor leagues represents a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone," Selig said in a statement. “The minor league program employs state of the art testing procedures and the addition of HGH testing provides an example for all of our drug policies in the future.”
The minor league drug program, which commenced in June 2001 and included testing for steroids, was unilaterally implemented by Selig. Since minor league players are not members of the union, blood testing for HGH is not a subject for collective bargaining. The minor league program has continued to the present, with refinements in the list of prohibited substances, the number of random tests, testing procedures, and the penalties applicable for failed tests.
In 2008, Braves outfielder Jordan Schafer became the first minor leaguer suspended for HGH, but that penalty was not a result of testing. MLB determined that Shafer had used HGH through its department of investigations.
“This represents a major development in the detection of a substance that has previously been undetectable and been subject to abuse,” said Dr. Gary Green, medical director for MLB.
“The combination of widespread availability and the lack of detection have led to reports of use of this drug among athletes. This is the first generation of HGH testing and Major League Baseball will continue to fund the Partnership for Clean Competition for ongoing research to refine testing procedures in this area.”
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