Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have announced several major changes to their policies on substance abuse. From a joint press release:
- Adding hGH blood testing during Spring Training, during the off-season, and for reasonable cause. The parties also agreed to study expanding hGH testing to the regular season.
- Increasing the number of random tests during the season and off-season.
- Modifying the Collection Procedures of the Program to clarify when collectors must deliver specimens to the courier, and how specimens should be stored prior to delivery to the courier.
- Modifying the Appeals procedures of the Program, including the circumstances under which procedural deviations will result in the invalidation of test results.
- Creating an Expert Panel of recognized ADD/ADHD experts to advise the Independent Program Administrator ("IPA") on Therapeutic Use Exemption ("TUE") applications for ADD/ADHD medications, and another expert panel of medical professionals to advise the IPA on TUE applications for other medications.
- Strengthening the protocols for addressing use by players of drugs of abuse.
- Permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player's positive test result or discipline.
- Making players who are suspended for violating the Program prior to the All-Star Break (including during Spring Training and the preceding off-season) ineligible to be elected or selected for the All-Star Game.
- Establishing a protocol for evaluating and treating players who may suffer from an alcohol use problem or who have engaged in off-field violent conduct.
- Clarifying the rules for violations for use or possession of prohibited substances based on evidence other than positive test results ("non-analytical positives.")
- Increasing the penalties for criminal convictions for possession or use of drugs of abuse (including stimulants).
At least one wag has referred to these new procedures as "the Ryan Braun Rules" ... and some of them certainly were inspired by the Ryan Braun Affair, particularly those concerning the collection of samples, and "permitting public announcement of the specific substance that resulted in a player's positive test result or discipline". (We should note that "permitting" isn't the same as "requiring".)
Another situation with some wiggle room? Creating Expert Panels sounds nice, but there's no announced mechanism whereby those Expert Panels would actually have any authority to disallow exemptions made for players who claim to need medication for ADD/ADHD. These Expert Panels might have just as much influence as Bud Selig's Blue Ribbon Panels: little, or none.