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Volume 21 No. 1
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Drug policies take on less prominence

It wasn’t that long ago when Bud Selig was tagged as “The Steroid Commissioner,” and it was widely assumed that moniker would follow him to the grave. But just barely three years since the public release of the infamous Mitchell Report, the issue has largely receded from public view.

Just three major league players have failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs since the start of the 2009 season, the most prominent being slugger Manny Ramirez, then of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The number of minor leaguers implicated over the same time is more than 160. But in general, there is a growing feeling that baseball’s numerous corrections to its drug policies over the past half-decade are beginning to have their intended effects.

The issue will take on less prominence during the coming labor negotiations compared with prior rounds, in part because both sides have regularly addressed the drug program since the Mitchell Report’s release. In addition to measures calling for a thorough annual review, new substances that become federally banned automatically become prohibited within baseball’s drug program.

“We’ve been revisiting this topic regularly. That was one of the big positive outcomes of the Mitchell Report,” said Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president for labor relations and human resources. “So, yes, it’s fair to say, this one relative to some other issues on the table will not be as major.”

Human growth hormone, however, is still a particularly thorny problem. A scientifically validated and scalable urine test for HGH remains elusive, despite plenty of attention and money, including from MLB, being thrown at the problem.

MLB last year began a blood test for HGH in the minors, where there is no players union and such matters are not subject to collective bargaining, and it’s likely the issue will be at least discussed for the major league level. The MLBPA, however, has historically shown great resistance to any sort of blood collection for testing purposes, with concerns including player safety and residual effects upon on-field performance.