Hey, how about that? One day after baseball writers pitched a shutout with Hall of Fame inductions because of suspicion over performance-enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball and its players' union announced an agreement that literally goes deeper than any other professional sport in the U.S. ever has into drug testing its athletes.
Word came on Thursday that there will be blood testing for human growth hormone (HGH) next season. The news was first reported by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Tests will be random, unannounced and reportedly will use "enhanced techniques" to find what they're looking for. A new test for testosterone, which eight major leaguers were caught taking during the 2012 season, most notably Carlos Ruiz and Melky Cabrera, will also be introduced. Union and management reportedly were close to agreeing on HGH testing in November, and here we are just five weeks or so until spring training, so it's set.
"You see?" the league and union can say. "There's no drug problem. Nobody got in the Hall of Fame, everybody will get blood drawn. We're on it!"
Well, if there's an afterlife, Marvin Miller is smoking a cigarette and shaking his head at Michael Weiner somewhere in it.
Miller, the labor lawyer who helped build the players' union in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, died in November. When he was working, and even after he retired, Miller was opposed to letting baseball owners drug test the union at all. Why? A few reasons. Privacy, for one. What business is it of George Steinbrenner what Reggie Jackson does or doesn't put into his body? But Miller was also opposed because of cause. Persuade me something's wrong, and I'll think about letting you prick my finger. Also, everything (rightly so) was a bargaining session. You want our blood? We want to see your financial records. No? OK, then. You can't draw squat, then.
But by the time 2003 came around and our country's drug hysteria was in full scream and half the league (or more) was suspected of doping, union chief Don Fehr and the players had relented. And Weiner, the union leader now, is letting baseball's overlords stick the needle in even deeper in 2013.
Neither the NFL or NBA test for HGH, which occurs naturally but also can be synthesized and is illegal without a prescription — an easy enough barrier to hurdle. Some believe that, if used correctly, HGH can help build muscle mass, cut fat and reverse some effects of aging in some athletes — though its effectiveness is questioned frequently in the science community. So the thinking goes: HGH might be affecting how you play baseball, but even though we don't know exactly how it does this, or even if, we're going to test you for drugs. Mmmkay?
MLB was already testing for HGH in the offseason, but this agreement with the players' union is another step, baseball hopes, in cleaning itself up in the wake of the vague period called by some the "PED era." The problem with what the BBWAA did by electing no one to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday — pronouncing everyone who played in the 1990s and 2000s to be guilty — is the same problem in principle with random drug tests. Most players have done nothing to arouse suspicion but all of them will have their bloodstream invaded so a handful of morally superior folks can feel better about the players doing drugs, or not doing them.
Through the prism of collective bargaining negotiation, it seems strange for Weiner and the union to allow more drug testing, especially after a season in which eight players were already caught with too much testosterone. What do players get out of this? A few more Hall of Fame votes? A few less self-righteous newspaper columns? Do they really think this will "clean up the game" and weed out the "cheaters"? What does that even mean? Regardless, they already started to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube. There's no putting it back.
Meanwhile, Marvin Miller's spirit grits his teeth.
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