Joint-Drug Program Toughened, with Exception

Right around the eve of the meaningful beginning of the 2014 regular season, baseball has announced an enhanced Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. You can read the details right here, but the primary takeaway is that now a first-time PED violation will result in an 80-game suspension, and a second-time PED violation will result in a 162-game suspension. A third violation still earns a lifetime ban, since it’s not very easy to make that penalty tougher without breaking actual laws. Also, a player suspended for a violation will no longer be eligible for that year’s postseason.

Of course, there are other enhancements, too. And it should be noted that the majority of the players have been supportive of tougher penalties for users. Many of the players want to play within a clean game, and they’re not fans of what users do for the perception of themselves and everyone else. In that way, perhaps this shouldn’t be viewed as a concession, but one bullet point in there shows that the players got something extra for themselves in return.

From the linked article:

The parties provided the Arbitration Panel with the ability to reduce a Player’s discipline (subject to certain limitations) for the use of certain types of performance-enhancing substances if the Player proves at a hearing that the use was not intended to enhance performance

Let’s go back to last March. Ken Rosenthal:

 One day after sources said that Major League Baseball had “no interest” in a two-tiered penalty system, a player familiar with discussions on the subject said that commissioner Bud Selig “may as well start trying to forget” tougher penalties if baseball will not consider such an idea.

Under a two-tiered system, players who intentionally violate the drug-testing program would receive harsher punishment than players who test positive unintentionally or due to negligence.

It would appear that MLB gave in, introducing something of a two-tiered system in exchange for stretching suspensions. That’s the way collective bargaining works — MLB wanted something, so MLB had to give something, and now they’ve re-achieved equilibrium. Of course, instances of accidental violations are unusual, but they’ve been known to happen in the past and now players can feel as if they have added protection.

Some other changes: a full-year suspension means a full year without pay, as opposed to 162/183 of a full year without pay. There will also be additional testing, including more blood collection for hGH detection. And this is of interest, so as to get fewer of the “tainted supplement” explanations for positive tests:

The parties established a program in which Players will have year-round access to supplements that will not cause a positive test result and which will improve home and visiting weight rooms.

Without doubt, the biggest question on everyone’s mind: why 80 games, and not 81? The rest makes good enough sense. That bit’s weird.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


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Matthew
Member
Member
2 years 4 months ago

I don’t like it because you really have to take intent into consideration. If Player A takes the wrong cold medicine,Player B takes Adderall, and Player C takes anabolic steroid and horse tranquilizer, it is seemingly wrong that they are punished in the same same way.

You can argue for equal punishment over equitable punishment, but that logic got thrown out the window with the A-Rod ordeal.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
2 years 4 months ago

Adderall is already punished differently with a 25 game ban. I disagree that intent should be taken into account, since it’s nearly impossible to prove that someone took a banned substance without the intention of improving their performance. All major league players have access to team doctors and plenty of resources that they can just pick up a phone and ask if something is ok to take.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Since MLB fired the last arbitrator who ruled against them I doubt they fear they will lose another case

Legolas
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Legolas
2 years 4 months ago

Sullivan writes as if the very whips of his masters are behind him.

The Foils
Member
The Foils
2 years 4 months ago

Nothing gets past your elf eyes

James
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James
2 years 4 months ago

So in this schema, Appelman is Sauron, Cameron is Saruman, and Cistulli is Grima Wormtongue?

Utah Dave
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Utah Dave
2 years 4 months ago

Jeff,
Thanks for the article. Whips or not, I thought it was informative. I like the no postseason addition a lot. It seems like MLB and the player’s association are actually working together and making the game better. 1994 be damned.

Balthazar
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Balthazar
2 years 4 months ago

On the whole, the changes are all in the right direction. Increased penalties, and a harder line on arbitration reductions are long overdue, but there needs to be ‘mercy exception,’ the players’ aren’t wrong about that, so good to have explicit language on that issue.

The real issue isn’t penalties but testing. MLB’s testing regime has been to this point ludicrously thin. Only stupid guys would get busted. There still is FAR to little testing, even though the number of random tests was moderately increased. The testing program for ALL players needs to be more or less what is now fixed for PED suspended players: six urine tests, three blood tests (which should all be randomized over the year and specifically including the offseason), plus several mandatory tests to establish a baseline for individuals. When that kind of routine is in place, it will be clear to players that they are simply playing Syringe Roulette in cheating, that the likelihood of getting a random test close enough to injection is going to catch up to them. Now, that’s still not the case.

Still, better late and light than never. A clean(er) game is in everyone’s best interests. I mean, if one is going to throw away nine-figure contracts on aging stars, it would be nice t know that they actually were as good as their numbers once and aren’t simply going to go off the juice once they have the payout guarantee and heist the dough for mediocre performance. Which is too much of what we still see in the game now.

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

I thought I read somewhere MLBPA also got concessions on the treatment on non-analytic positives, but this is not getting as much attention. Its mean to reduce the commissioners discretion in determining suspension length

pft
Guest
pft
2 years 4 months ago

Also important is the ban on DHEA. This is a testosterone precursor and banned by every other sport, but was allowed by MLB. Buds from Wisconsin so perhaps he wanted to protect the soybean farmers, but since he is retiring…..

Chris Perez
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Chris Perez
2 years 4 months ago

Whew! Glad I read the whole thing and not just the headline.

Indians fan
Guest
Indians fan
2 years 4 months ago

Well played.

Tim Lincecum
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Tim Lincecum
2 years 4 months ago

I know. I almost dropped my Snickers.

Snowman
Guest
Snowman
2 years 4 months ago

“A third violation still earns a lifetime ban, since it’s not very easy to make that penalty tougher without breaking actual laws.”

THUNDERDOME!

Balthazar
Guest
Balthazar
2 years 4 months ago

Punishment Park! (A seriously under-rated film.)

Snowman
Guest
Snowman
2 years 4 months ago

All of Watkins’ work was quite good, but sadly mostly forgotten. For better or worse, I’m afraid I just went with something people would recognize.

joe
Guest
joe
2 years 4 months ago

I’m for a cleaner game and it really bothers me how neither the media nor anybody else ever brings up how ridiculous the testing programs are in other sports especially in the NFL. No, none of those guys are in steroids. Yeah right!

paperlions
Guest
paperlions
2 years 4 months ago

More players are suspended for steroid use in the NFL than for all types of PEDs in MLB every year. People may not consider the testing system as strong as MLBs, but they already suspend more players than MLB. The only difference is that the NFL media doesn’t get the vapors every time a player is suspended.

IHateJoeBuck
Member
IHateJoeBuck
2 years 4 months ago

Can you clarify what you mean by more players? MLB has 25 man active rosters, NFL has 53. Does the NFL suspend more players in total or as a percentage of active players?

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

The NFL does way more testing than the MLB. NFL also tests in the offseason, and requires players who “retire” to be tested during the retirement period or they come back suspended. IE, you take a year off and play in Canada, and don’t keep up with the NFL’s testing regime, you start off as if you failed a test when you come back.

If you think the NFL has a weaker policy, its because of your ignorance.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 4 months ago

I agree entirely.

joe
Guest
joe
2 years 4 months ago

There is no way the nfl is cleaner than baseball.

James
Guest
James
2 years 4 months ago

I really hope the reason for the 80-game suspension is something along the lines that this way if people are still unhappy about the system after a violation this year, they can “toughen” it again to a HALF-SEASON FOR 1ST TIME SUSPENSION.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 4 months ago

” if the Player proves at a hearing that the use was not intended to enhance performance”

This is the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen put into a codification. These are professional athletes, monitored by team physicians. Unless we’re talking about tainted supplements, everything they do is intentional.

sopcod
Member
sopcod
2 years 4 months ago

I think the players just want to feel like they have this option… it will be interesting to follow the first case of this that comes up, whenever that will be.

Lorenzo Farrier
Guest
Lorenzo Farrier
2 years 4 months ago

A number of players in the Biogenesis “event” had taken proscribed substances in the off-season while rehabbing injuries. A lot of players don’t know about the exceptions available, and many who live outside the US have doctors who don’t know much of anything about MLB’s procedures.

Edinson Volquez was suspended while he was rehabbing from TJ surgery because a Dominican doctor didn’t know about the proscribed drugs that also treat low sperm count, a medical condition Volquez has. The Reds doctor had him on a less effective drug that wasn’t proscribed and Volquez couldn’t find it in the D.R.

Unfortunately, the best drug for low sperm count is testosterone and that’s what Volquez was given. The drug system has an exception that allows such drugs to be used – once – but that condition requires continuous treatment. There was no way Volquez was trying to enhance performance, since he was 6 months from being allowed to pitch. He just got tested when he showed up at Spring Training to begin his rehab treatment with the trainers.

The new exception allows MLB to avoid the idiocy of suspending a guy for a doctor’s mistake and then letting him serve it on the DL.

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