Report: MLB, MLBPA Discussing Random Opioid Testing After Death of Tyler Skaggs

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorSeptember 7, 2019

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 12: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim players lay their jerseys on the pitchers mound after they won a combined no-hitter agasint the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 12, 2019 in Anaheim, California. The entire Angels team wore Tyler Skaggs #45 jersey to honor him after his death on July 1. Angels won 13-0. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
John McCoy/Getty Images

The tragic death of Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs has prompted the MLB and MLBPA to discuss the possibility of randomly testing athletes for opioids, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan

The discussions are expected to continue throughout the regular season and into the offseason, per Passan. Opioids are on the league's banned substance list, but the league does not currently test for them.

An autopsy from the Tarrant County (Texas) medical examiner's office revealed that Skaggs had oxycodone and fentanyl in his blood at the time of his death. The medical examiner concluded the southpaw died on July 1 after choking on his own vomit while under the influence.

Passan provided more details about potential changes to the drug-testing program and ensuing punishments, noting that removing tests for marijuana use is also on the table:

"Officials have discussed a number of options in exchange for adding opioids to random testing, including the possibility of removing all testing for marijuana, sources tell ESPN. Currently, only players who are in the joint drug-treatment program from a prior offense are tested for marijuana, and while those who run afoul of the program are subject to discipline, MLB never has suspended a major league player for marijuana use."

Minor league baseball currently tests for opioid use, with the first offense resulting in entrance into a drug-treatment program and the second violation triggering a suspension.

Momentum is moving forward for the major leagues adopting its own plan, as MLBPA President Tony Clark noted in comments to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

"For several reasons, including the tragic loss of a member of our fraternity and other developments happening in the country as a whole, it is appropriate and important to re-examine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention," Clark said.

Changes to the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, which became active in 2006, aren't unprecedented.

The MLB and MLBPA agreed to human growth hormone testing in the offseason and spring training with "reasonable cause" after the 2011 season. They also increased the number of random tests.

Sweeping fixes also took place in 2014, including more than doubling random urine collections, increasing the suspensions for violators and adding the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) to the banned substance list.


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