MLB Tests Draft Prospects

Screening is underway for Top 200 prospects

As the 2008 Major League Baseball draft quickly approaches, the game's top prospects have more to worry about than agents and mock draft positions.

Starting this year, they must also deal with lab coats and urine samples.

As part of an agreement reached by MLB and the players' union in April, the top 200 draft prospects have been added to the league's drug testing program prior to the draft.

Players who test positive prior to the draft will not face any discipline since they are not yet under contract, but MLB will notify each club of such results. Players who refuse to participate in the test will not be eligible to be drafted.

"The main purpose behind it is pre-employment testing," MLB vice president of public relations Pat Courtney said. "It's another process in place to make sure people are not doing things in advance to be able to get drafted, so you wouldn't be able to use performance enhancing drugs that are going to help you out in being pro baseball player."

The new test could spell trouble for some, while for others it will be only a minor inconvenience. But many players, like Kent State righthander Chris Carpenter, are in favor of the move to uphold the game's integrity.

"I think it's a good idea to drug test players," Carpenter said. "Anything to keep everybody at a fair, level playing ground."

Others, though, were skeptical of the test's format.

"I think it's a pretty good idea, but I would have liked to have seen something a little more random," Wichita State third baseman Conor Gillaspie said. "Because you can kind of plan around it if you know when it's coming."

Former U.S. senator George Mitchell recommended that the top 100 prospects undergo testing in his investigation of drug use in professional baseball. However MLB decided to double that number for more thorough testing. The top 200 were identified by the MLB Scouting Bureau in an attempt to maintain an objective standard.

The league, though, is treading carefully with regard to the issue. Frank Marcos, head of the scouting bureau, declined to comment on the new policies.

The program has no parallels in the other major sports leagues, but it mirrors some NCAA and minor league testing. It also closely resembles policies outside the country, another sign of baseball's ever-expanding global presence.

"We have something that's a little bit similar in the Dominican, where they do some pre-employment testing," Courtney said. "It's right afterwards, actually, that people are tested, and they can lose their signing bonuses or be released if they test positive."

The tests are currently underway, and are being conducted by the National Center for Drug Free Sport.