Drug use among professional athletes continues to be a hot topic with many believing all in professional sports should now be tested for drug use. The NFL and MLB are both looking into professional sports testing for HGH (or similar phrasing) and this conversation won't be ending anytime soon. Changes are being made to drug testing policies in both sports as a number of professionals have been caught making use of these substances. What regulations are currently in place in the MLB and NFL, how do they test players and what changes will one see in the drug testing areas over the coming year?
Major League Baseball
In 2012, professional baseball players were subject to human growth hormone testing MLB while in spring training. This was a new addition to the league's drug testing policy which already had urine tests for other-performance enhancing drugs in place. Drug testing was first put into place in 2003, but the tests were random and penalties weren't imposed until the following year. It wasn't until 2005 that first time offenders were suspended for drug use. In 2006, the league chose to increase the penalty from ten days to 50 games and in the same year illegal amphetamines were added to the list of banned substances. Take a look at NFL specific issues here.
Over the years, the league has continued to address the issue of drugs used to enhance performance. Thanks to the ongoing debate over drug use, the league has now decided to take this further. This year, the Major League Baseball Players Association and management have agreed to allow HGH blood tests throughout the season. Records will be kept for each player and these records will include the player's baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. The World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory, located in Laval, Quebec, will hold these records and will also do tests on any urine specimens which 'vary materially'. Tests conducted will be Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry tests and will help to detect testosterone levels which are abnormal.
Players are okay with these changes as they feel the program is fair, but tough. It makes use of proven scientific methods and allows the players to protect their legal rights. According to Christiane Ayotte, the program is second to none when it comes to detecting and preventing the use of synthetic testosterone and HGH.
Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens are three names which have been in the news lately for use of performance enhancing drugs. All three weren't elected to the Hall of Fame the first time they were eligible and most believe this is due to their use of drugs to improve their game. Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera have both served suspensions for violating the league's anti-drug policy. See also a growth hormone overview here.
The National Football League
For many years, the NFL's banned substance policy was considered to be the toughest in professional sports in America. This policy was originally drafted in 1987 and allows random drug testing at any time. Every player must undergo urine sampling a minimum of once a year and the NFL reviews both the systems and methods every quarter while continuously upgrading the protocol.
Two years ago, the Collective Bargaining Agreement included a testing provision for human growth hormone. At this time though, there isn't a unified agreement for the protocol to be used for HGH blood tests. If a test does come back positive for a performance enhancing drug, players aren't required to disclose which drug was used.
Penalties for drug use vary depending on how many time the player has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The first time a player tests positive, he receives a four game suspension with no pay. The second time the test comes back positive, he is suspended for eight games with no salary and the third positive test results in a one year suspension with no pay.
Roger Goodell believes HGH testing in the NFL will be in place before the 2013-2014 season begins. He also reiterates his belief that this is good for the players as well as the integrity of the game. The issue that still must be addressed is the appeals process for positive test results.
Richard Sherman and Eric Wright are two names that have recently come up in the discussion of performance enhancing drugs. Both are accused of using Adderall although both have appealed their suspensions. David Vobora is another player accused of violating the policy although he called the NFL hotline created for players to inquire about certain products only to be told it didn't. He was then suspended for violating the league policy and eventually won a judgement against the manufacturer which didn't list the substance in the ingredients. These are jut a few examples of performance enhancing drugs which many don't believe fall into this category.
Some feel the NFL needs to focus more on the DUI policy after a number of player arrests for DUI. This may become of more concern after the death of Dallas Cowboy Jerry Brown who was killed while riding in a car with Josh Brent. Mr. Brent was arrested for second-degree felony intoxication manslaughter. The NFL must improve on its drug policy, whether it be alcohol or performance enhancing drugs if it wants to keep up with the MLB.
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