MLB exploring testing for HGH in Minors
League consulting with experts concerning immediate next steps
Major League Baseball plans to explore the possible implementation of blood testing for human growth hormone in the Minor Leagues later this year, an official in baseball with direct knowledge of the matter told The New York Times for a story published on its Web site late Tuesday.
The news comes one day after a British rugby player was suspended for testing positive for HGH, the first time that an athlete had been publicly identified for testing positive for the substance, the report said. In a statement to The New York Times, Major League Baseball said it was "well aware of the important news with respect to" the positive drug test that resulted in the ban of the rugby player. The statement continued: "We are consulting with our experts concerning immediate steps for our minor league drug program and the next steps for our Major League drug program."
Commissioner Bud Selig previously has implemented new steps against the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the Minor Leagues during the past decade, doing so without needing the consent of the MLB Players Association because most Minor Leaguers aren't members.
A second baseball official confirmed to The Times on Tuesday that Selig will likely move to get the union's approval to test for HGH on the Major League level.
The players unions in both baseball and the National Football League have accepted the use of urine tests for various performance enhancers. However, they have resisted blood testing, questioning the reliability of any current test for H.G.H.
"We believe we have the best drug-testing policy and there is no reason to forcefully implement any blood-testing at this time," George Atallah, a spokesman for the NFL union, told The Times. A spokesman for the baseball union only told the newspaper "that it was consulting with its medical experts" and declined further comment.
According to the report, MLB and the NFL have provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in research financing to Don Catlin, a longtime anti-doping expert, hoping that Catlin could produce a reliable HGH urine test. The Times reported that "Catlin has said he is making progress on the test but is not sure when it might be ready for widespread use."
Selig has publicly supported an HGH test.
"When a valid, commercially available and practical test for HGH becomes reality -- regardless of whether the test is based on blood or urine -- baseball will support the utilization of that test," Selig said in 2008, at a hearing before Congress.
That following November, then-head of the baseball union Donald Fehr said he would consider support for an HGH test "if and when a blood test is available and it can be signed and validated by people other than those that are trying to sell it to you. Then we'd have to take a hard look at it."
The report also said that officials for the World Anti-Doping Agency and the United States Anti-Doping Agency pointed out privately that athletes often used HGH out of competition and not when events were taking place. It was only in 2008 that kits were developed allowing for wider testing of athletes outside of competition.
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.