MLB, clubs using DNA tests on prospects
Players being analyzed to determine age, identity
Major League Baseball is conducting genetic testing on some promising young Latin American players and their family members after being confronted with identity and age falsification, according to a report in The New York Times.
Major League Baseball said in a written statement that it used DNA testing in the Dominican Republic "in very rare instances, and only on a consensual basis to deal with the identity fraud problem that the league faces in that country." The statement also said the results were not used for any other purpose. A spokesman for Major League Baseball declined to tell the publication how many players had been tested and whether the results were stored or destroyed.
In recent years, some Latin American prospects have been caught claiming to be younger than they actually are in order to be more enticing to Major League teams. The DNA test does not reveal an age, but it can reveal whether the player is the son of his claimed parents. Some players have also had bone scans performed on them in order to determine an age range, the report said.
Federal legislation, signed into law last year and scheduled to take effect Nov. 21, prohibits companies based in the United States from asking an employee, a potential employee or a family member of an employee for a sample of their DNA, the report said.
Some experts and at least one scout raised the notion that the DNA results could be used to try to predict players' medical future, according to the Times, which also reported that baseball's use of DNA information alarmed experts in genetics and bioethics.
A baseball official told the paper that individual teams have been conducting DNA tests for a few years and that the league's department of investigations has been doing it for the past year. According to the official, the investigators look into whether prospects are being truthful about their identities and ages, and if the findings are inconclusive, the player is invited to provide a DNA sample from himself and his parents to clear up the concern.
The player must pay for the test and is reimbursed if the results show he was being truthful, the paper said.
Recently, Miguel Sano, a top prospect in the Dominican Republic, was administered DNA tests and a bone-scan procedure to help confirm that he was 16, the report said.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.