Major League Baseball and its players association announced significant changes to the league's current drug program that are expected to be finalized in the coming days, according to a press release provided by MLB on Friday.
According to the release, the new policy will make for stiffer drug penalties and allow for more widespread testing across the league. The changes will also allow for blood testing for human growth hormone.
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark credits the players for helping initiate the change, per MLB.com:
Experience proves that increased penalties alone are not sufficient; that's why the Players pushed for a dramatic increase in the frequency and sophistication of our tests, as well as comprehensive changes in a number of other areas of the program that will serve as a deterrent. Make no mistake, this agreement underscores the undisputed reality that the Players put forward many of the most significant changes reached in these negotiations because they want a fair and clean game.
The MLB's public relations department released the following highlights of the new program on Friday:
MLB & MLBPA jointly announced significant improvements to the Joint Drug Agreement. Highlights: pic.twitter.com/QAnSJ4sXVh— MLB Public Relations (@MLB_PR) March 28, 2014
New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman points out the penalties for players who test positive under the new joint drug policy:
MLB/MLBPA announce sweeping changes to Joint Drug Program. New penalties 80 games/162 games/lifetime ban— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 28, 2014
First-time offenders will be suspended 80 games and second-time offenders will be suspended for an entire season (162 games). Those numbers are up significantly from the previous policy, which suspended players 50 games for a first-time offense and 100 games for a second-time offense.
A third offense will warrant a lifetime ban or "permanent suspension from baseball," per the league's press release.
The league also announced that a second violation will result in a loss of 183 days of salary.
NBC Sports breaks down another key addition to the program:
Players who are suspended for PEDs will be ineligible for the postseason under the new MLB drug program.— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) March 28, 2014
According to Fox Sports MLB reporter Ken Rosenthal, players who test positive under the new policy will be subject to unannounced testing:
Every player suspended for PEDs will be subject to 6 additional urine tests and 3 additional blood tests for rest of career, all unannounced— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 28, 2014
By cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs, the MLB is making positive steps toward fielding a more credible product. And the majority, including NBC Sports' Patrick Daugherty, believe that doing so is what's best for baseball:
I know many dispute the effects of PEDs. I'm not very educated on the science of it. But to me, baseball is a much better game than it...— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) March 28, 2014
...was 10 years ago. Games had seemingly devolved into a series of random solo home runs. It didn't feel like baseball to me.— Patrick Daugherty (@RotoPat) March 28, 2014
It remains to be seen how effective the league's new policy will be once finalized, but there's no doubt that the increased penalties for violating the program and thorough testing are sure to discourage players from experimenting with banned substances.
Last season's Biogenesis scandal was a major black eye on baseball, and although it will take time for the league to restore its reputation, this new drug policy is clearly a step in the right direction.
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