This year, players will be give more urine and blood tests. A first-time performance-enhancing drug violation will result in an unpaid 80-game suspension, an increase from 50 games. A second violation results in a 162-game suspension and no pay for the entire year. A third violation leads to a permanent suspension. And, perhaps the change most welcome by the players, any player suspended for performance-enhancing drug use will not be eligible for the postseason.
Nationals reliever Drew Storen has served as the team’s players union representative for the past few seasons. Before the union voted to approve the changes, Storen talked with players around the Nationals clubhouse about the proposed changes and asked if there were any concerns, and then shared their sentiments with the union. Storen said the consensus was in favor of the stiffer penalties.
“Guys want it,” he said. “As long as it’s done the right way and it’s not done to inconvenience you – yeah, there’ll be a little bit – but we’re willing to do that because we know it’s going to take the game in the direction it needs to go.”
The number of in-season random urine tests will increase from 1,400 to 3,200, in addition to the minimum two for each player. Offseason testing also will increase. Random blood tests, used to detect human growth hormone use, will increase to 400, in addition to the mandatory one for each player during spring training. A more expensive and extensive type of testing, Carbon Isotope Mass Spectrometry (IRMS), which can test testosterone use from weeks ago, will also be randomly used.
“You don’t know when the testing is coming, there’s going to be more of it and there are going to be more blood tests,” Storen said. “That’s the main thing. The penalties are tough anyways, so increasing that is good. But the main thing is increasing the actual testing. It’s obviously not ideal time-wise. But the fact that we’re willing to do it shows our willingness to really clean up the game.”
Storen said he was pleased there was a provision in the new rules that allows for a program in which players with be provided with year-round access to approved supplements. He also liked that the new rules allowed for a player who believes he took banned substances by accident to ask for an arbitration hearing to argue his case for a reduced penalty.
“Obviously there’s still going to be a penalty and you have to be responsible for what you’re taking,” Storen said. “But if it’s something out of your control, there’s going to be consequences, but at the same time, you don’t get put in the same category as some who does it on purpose.”
The performance-enhancing drug rules were heavily criticized last season when players suspended for their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, such as Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, were allowed to participate in the playoffs after serving 50-game suspensions. Now, players such as those will be barred from postseason play and from accepting playoff shares. “It takes away that decision,” Storen said.
Overall, Storen said the stiffer rules were welcomed by players and should not be viewed as a negotiating loss to the league.
“Is shows you the desire from the player side of it and wanting to clean up the game,” he said. “I think over the years people kind of assume that players aren’t the ones driving it and we’re trying to get away with it. But in reality, we’re the ones trying to clean it up. The percentage of guys that are not following the rules is very low. To be a part of helping clean up the game and putting us in the forefront of having one of the best drug programs of any of the professional sports is something we really take pride it.”
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