The announcement on Thursday that baseball would test minor-league players blood for the illicit use of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) has received a mixed reaction. Commissioner Bud Selig wasted no time tooting his own trumpet: “The implementation of blood testing in the minor leagues represents a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone. HGH testing provides an example for all of our drug policies in the future.”
However, noted PED guru Victor Conte was not exactly impressed, stating, "It wouldn't take much of an IQ for a player to circumvent this proposed HGH testing procedure." The problem is that players will know enough in advance of a test, to be able to ensure that no detectable trace of HGH is left in their system. As a colleague noted, it's like issuing notecards that say, "Check this box if you use HGH. P.S. Tell the truth!"
The players' union, meanwhile, remains as reluctant as ever. "The union's position on HGH testing remains unchanged: When a test is available that is scientifically validated and that can be administered safely and without interfering with the players' ability to compete, it will be considered," said Executive Director Michael Weiner in a prepared statement. Minor-league players do not have a collective bargaining agreement, so getting jabbed is something they just have to bear.
As with most such things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Baseball is the first major sport in the US to have any kind of testing scheme, so anything is better than the nothing they have elsewhere. It is also a good thing to have minor-leaguers come up who are used to blood tests - they'll be less likely to have the trypanophobia apparently suffered by the union currently. Personally, it's a start - but the gaping loopholes present need to be addressed, and a truly random program of unannounced testing put in place.