MLB to begin opioid testing for players in 2020

Jack BaerWriter

In response to the tragic death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs resulting from opioids and alcohol in his system, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have agreed on a new drug policy that adds opioid testing for major leaguers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

The policy is reportedly expected to be announced Thursday.

Under the policy, major leaguers will receive treatment rather than a suspension or other punishment if they test positive for opioids, likely intended to encourage players like Skaggs to come out of the dark and get help.

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Additionally, MLB’s new drug policy is reportedly expected to remove punishment for marijuana use in the major and minor leagues. Previously, minor leaguers were subject to marijuana testing and suspensions for repeated use. Major leaguers were not previously subject to opioid or marijuana testing without reasonable cause or as part of a treatment program.

Now, players will be able to use marijuana for pain relief without fear of discipline from the league.

Tyler Skaggs' death has caused a major change in how MLB handles opioid testing. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tyler Skaggs' death has caused a major change in how MLB handles opioid testing. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred commended union chief Tony Clark for his cooperation on a change the league clearly needed.

“Hats off to Tony for being forthcoming on the issue,” Manfred said, according to the Times. “I think they made an agreement that is realistic in terms of how you handle people with opioid problems, and I think it will be an improvement for the industry going forward.”

Opioids became a major story in MLB after Skaggs’ toxicology report revealed he had a mixture of “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone” in his system, which caused him to choke on his own vomit in a Texas hotel room. Former Angels communications director Eric Kay has since revealed to investigators that he supplied opioids to Skaggs and five other players on the Angels.

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