Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Will MLB's new Joint Drug Agreement be the ultimate deterrent?

I honestly didn’t believe this would happen as soon as it did. MLB and the MLBPA have a Joint Drug Agreement that will be used for the 2014 season. You think Biogenesis created a lasting effect on the game? If you hadn’t previously, you surely should now.

Let’s review some of the changes in the JDA:

- A first offense will now carry a suspension of 80 games, up from 50. Second offenses will be for a full season, or 162 games. The previous suspension time was 100 games. A third offense will remain as a lifetime ban.
- If a player is suspended, he will also forfeit his right to participate in his team’s postseason and will not be eligible for any postseason shares.
- Players will now be subject to two urine samples during the season.
- There will be 400 random blood tests for HGH. This is in addition to the required spring training HGH tests.
- There will now be implementation of the Carbon Isotope Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) test. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, the IRMS “is designed to detect anyone who uses performance-enhancing drugs within a two-week period, instead of only being detected within a 24-hour period”.
- If any player does test positive for banned substances, he will face six additional unannounced urine tests as well as three blood tests during every year for the remainder of his career.
- Should a player test positive, he could receive a reduced suspension if it’s determined through a hearing process that the player’s positive test resulted in accidental/inadvertent use. The burden of proof rests with the player.

There have been many opinions that this new policy isn’t fair. Namely, exclusion of a player from the postseason. As David Brown of Big League Stew notes:

Such a move lacks logic. It’s also not fair. It’s like double jeopardy. It’s two sentences for the same crime, with the second contingent on the player — presumably clean again — helping his team make the playoffs, which is the entire point of Major League Baseball.

This does seem like a contradiction, I’ll admit. That’s solely based on the phrase “double jeopardy” Brown uses. Think about it. Do without a suspended player, let him back to help his team gain a playoff spot (provided there is still more than 80 games left in the season when he’s suspended), and then that player can no longer be a part of the team in its postseason.Brown adds that there is no incentive for a player returning from suspension to help his team achieve this.

Ah, but there is. Won’t said player have something to prove? Doesn’t every player that has ever served a suspension have something to prove? How else would he be able to do that unless he takes the field and supports his team through his play?

The last point I mentioned about accidental or inadvertent use is a bit puzzling as the player will still receive a reduced suspension. Seems strange. Should a player still have to serve a suspension of any length if he can adequately prove his use of the banned substance wasn’t intentional?

I’ve also read many a comment that fans wish for contracts to be voided should a positive test occur. File that under “food for thought”. Even if there is a meteoric rise in positive tests, this issues will never be brought to the bargaining table. Don’t ask for it. That said, a “one and done” proposal could be considered under the conditions I just stated, but even that wish seems many years away at best. A true long shot.

And let’s not be tricked into thinking that because of these sweeping changes suspended players still won’t receive contracts such as the deal Jhonny Peralta inked. Those will still happen. The only deterrent to those would be devising a format or scale in which suspended players would be paid. I bet the MLBPA would love to see the owners reach on that.

Read comment son this as well. As far as holding the team responsible for a player testing positive, I think that’s illogical. Is a team truly responsible for a player using PEDs and/or HGH? You can only educate them and discourage PED and HGH use so much. Use is determined by the player, not his team. Well, as far as we know. If it can be proven that a team was complicit with a player’s use, then MLB should serve great punishment to any team doing so.

Maybe I just thought of another provision. Dare we add a postseason ban for a team for this?

Baseball states that it already has the toughest testing in sports. Now, with these announced changes, it appears they are strengthening that claim. Of course, we won’t know of this until the first player is caught.

I’d love to believe that the revised JDA will result in no positive tests, but I think we all know too well that it won’t happen. Too simple. One would be completely naive into thinking that will be the case. I’d love to eat crow on that statement and have no more suspended players this season. Alex Colome of the Tampa Bay Rays will serve a 50-game suspension once the season begins.

While the number of positive tests should decrease (one can hope, right?), there will always be at least one player that thinks he’ll never get caught.

There’s always one.

Tags: PEDs

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