MLB To Implement In-Season HGH Testing

Players Association Approves Groundbreaking Policy





PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz.—In April, a randomly selected player in Major League Baseball will roll up his sleeves for a first-of-its-kind blood test.
 
That player will become the first athlete in the four major North American sports to take a test for human growth hormone during a season.

"This is a very proud day for baseball," commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday, in announcing the new policy at the owners meetings here.

The in-season tests, approved by the Major League Baseball Players Association, left some players waiting to hear how the tests would be administered. Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis and Angels catcher Chris Iannetta each said he preferred a postgame blood test, but a pregame testing regimen appears more likely, according to a person familiar with the program but not authorized to discuss it.

"I'm not sure of the logistics, but I feel most all players support and understand the importance of a clean game," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said, "especially in the wake of the Hall of Fame vote."

A star-studded class of candidates was entirely rejected for the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens the most prominent players turned away because of links to steroid use.

The timing of Thursday's announcement was coincidental, Selig said; the revised drug policy had been in the works for months.

"In life, they say timing is everything," Selig said.

The revised policy also includes a more rigorous protocol for detecting synthetic testosterone. Melky Cabrera of the Giants and Bartolo Colon of the Athletics each served 50-game testosterone suspensions last season, and the use of synthetic testosterone was of particular concern in baseball's fight against performance-enhancing drugs.

"Anything you can do to eliminate the temptation and health risks players might take to get an edge, by having more stringent tests, that's good for baseball and good for the players," Iannetta said. "I don't think players want to take PEDs, but if you can take that decision away, it's good for the game."

The HGH testing in particular is expected to put additional pressure on the NFL and its players union. Officials from the league and union were summoned to Congress last month for a hearing on why the NFL had not followed through on its promise to adopt HGH testing.

Similar hearings in Washington spurred MLB and the Players Association to implement and then toughen a drug testing policy within the past decade. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who summoned Selig and union leaders to Congress, issued a statement Thursday saluting MLB and the union.

"Baseball can rightly boast that it has the best testing program among our country's professional sports leagues," Waxman said. "Major League Baseball and the Players' Union have moved a long way from the inadequate policies that were in place when Congress first addressed ballplayers' use of steroids."

Selig saluted Michael Weiner, the current union chief, for negotiating the revised policy.
 
MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred said players would randomly be selected for HGH tests at least once every season—with no limit—but not during the postseason. He said he believed an initial year of blood tests—once last season, during spring training—helped the players get "comfortable" with the idea that HGH testing was effective and feasible.

"As long as we feel—and it's proven—to not hinder our performance," Ellis said, "than there is no reason not to support it."

Bill Shaikin covers baseball for the Los Angeles Times. Times staff writer Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report from Los Angeles.