MLB Starts Trainer Partnership Program In Latin America
As part of an attempt to cut down on steroid use from amateur players, Major League Baseball has implemented multiple international changes.
One change is the implementation of a Trainer Partnership Program with trainers and agents who represent amateur players in Latin America. The league held meetings with several of the most prominent trainers based in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. So far, around 50 of them have agreed to join the program.
The Trainer Partnership Program, whose creation was previously reported by Maury Brown of Forbes and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, is a way for MLB to essentially certify trainers who have agreed to comply with MLB standards. There are people in all camps—MLB officials, club personnel, trainers, players and their families—who have concerns about steroid use, both as a business problem and as a player safety issue. The Trainer Partnership Program gives MLB trainer cooperation to help the league do more drug testing and drug education with players at a younger age, with the idea of deterring steroid use. It also allows MLB to put regulations and potential business consequences in place for a group of trainers that the league largely did not otherwise control.
Joining the Trainer Partnership Program is not mandatory for a trainer to be able to sign players with MLB clubs. When trainers choose to participate in the program, here’s what happens:
- MLB conducts a background check on the trainer.
- The trainer has to keep records of their program’s employees and players, and provide that information to MLB.
- Trainers consent to having their players subject to random and team-requested drug tests, including players multiple years away from being eligible to sign.
In exchange, those trainers will receive enhanced scouting opportunities at MLB events, with the first MLB showcase for Trainer Partnership Program players scheduled for next month in the Dominican Republic. Trainers also receive access to supplements certified as being compliant with MLB’s drug testing program, and MLB will use those trainers as a sounding board to consult with them on potential rule changes or policy issues that affect Latin American amateur players.
MLB teams will know which trainers are in the program, so it’s also a way of giving those trainers added credibility, both with clubs as well as with younger players and their families when trainers are trying to bring them into their programs. MLB told trainers in those meetings that the league plans to become more active among younger players and families prior to when they choose a trainer and would educate them about the benefits of being with a trainer in the program. If a trainer has players testing positive for steroids or is otherwise repeatedly violating rules, he could be removed from the program.
While the Trainer Partnership Program is in its infancy stages, MLB has told clubs and trainers that it hopes to ultimately expand membership to more trainers and more countries once the foundation of the program is in place and operating.
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Drug Testing Changes
Separate from the Trainer Partnership Program, MLB also changed its pre-contract drug testing procedures for amateur players in Latin America.
MLB already had a drug testing program for what it refers to as Level 2 registered players, a group of 150 players who MLB has identified as top prospects available for the upcoming July 2 and who have their age/identity investigations conducted on a pre-contract basis. Those players are subject to random drug testing leading up to July 2. That program remains in place.
Additionally, teams were also conducting their own drug tests on amateur players, often at times well in advance of July 2 when they would reach an early, unofficial agreement to sign a player. When teams did those tests, MLB often would not know the results, and it was the teams themselves who were collecting consent forms and finding their own drug testing vendor to conduct the test.
Now, MLB has centralized those team requests to all run through the league office. So if a team wants to drug test a 2019 or a 2020 player now, those requests would go through MLB, which would then use its drug testers and labs to go out and test the players.
Clubs can request a drug test for an amateur player regardless of whether the player is part of the Level 2 registration program or is with a trainer in the Trainer Partnership Program. Accepting the drug test request is optional for the player, but typically many already choose to accept if a team and player are in the final stages of reaching a signing agreement. Those in the Trainer Partnership Program, though, have pre-consented to having their players tested by request in addition to the randomized testing.
Unlike players who are already under contract to a team and test positive for steroids, amateur players who test positive or decline a test request are not subject to a suspension.