Baseball May Begin Year-Round HGH Blood Tests, Union Says

Major League Baseball and its players’ union are discussing changes to drug-testing rules that could take effect by the start of next season, union chief Michael Weiner said.

The changes may include in-season and year-round blood testing for human growth hormone as well as further rules for testosterone detection, Weiner said at a news conference yesterday following executive board meetings in New York.

His comments came a day after MLB announced a 25-game suspension for Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz for amphetamine use and follow a season in which players including Melky Cabrera were suspended for testosterone use.

“I would expect that you’ll see, before too long, some announcements in that area,” said Weiner, the executive director of the MLB Players Association. “The number of positives we’ve had have caught the attention of both sides and we are trying to address it.”

Among those flunking drug tests during the 2012 season were Cabrera, an All-Star outfielder for the San Francisco Giants; Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon, and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal. All were found to have used muscle-building testosterone.

“The fact that we detected those shows that we do have a strong deterrence in our program,” Weiner said. “I understand the fact that there was a number of them suggest that people thought they could use, but we caught some people that I’m not sure any other detection program could have caught.”

In-Season Testing

Testing for HGH, which was adopted with the sport’s 2011 collective bargaining agreement, thus far has been limited to the offseason and spring training.

“We’re having discussions with MLB that, if they’re fruitful, would have in-season testing, and frankly, the possibility of year-round testing for HGH,” Weiner said. “There’s not really an objection at this point. It was more, let’s go deliberately and make sure that guys are comfortable with it, and at this point everybody’s had a chance to have that kind of experience.”

Players receive a 50-game ban the first time they test positive for steroids and other strength builders. While some players have expressed a desire for stricter penalties for those caught doping, the union feels on the whole “that the current disciplinary scheme is appropriate,” Weiner said.

Patrick Courtney, a spokesman for MLB, said in an e-mail that the league doesn’t reveal details about its bargaining discussions.

Weiner, who announced in August that he had an inoperable brain tumor, said he’s had multiple rounds of treatment for the cancer, with the biggest side effect being the loss of most of his hair.

“I’m doing OK, I’m doing well,” Weiner, 50, said. “I haven’t had any major side effects and for that I’m very thankful.”

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