Beyond the Mitchell Report: Failed MLB Drug Testing in the Minor Leagues

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Beyond the Mitchell Commission's investigation of performance-enhancing substance (PES) use in baseball Minor League News (MLN) takes a critical look at the 'toughest' testing system in baseball, the minor league policy established independent of the MLB Players Association by commissioner Bud Selig in 2001. Are the low positive testing numbers accurate? What are the loopholes and the double-standards driving PES usage amongst players? MLN gets some surprising takes from the experts, and has players guide you through the loopholes and the double-standards that drive PES usage in the lower ranks of professional baseball.

Minor League News (MLN) has just released a series of articles and interviews in the most recent edition of MLNSportsZone.com, the oldest and most established magazine in minor league and independent sports, that go beyond the Mitchell Commission report to expose the much larger problems driving the use of performance-enhancing substances (PES) in professional baseball, and why they may never be driven from the game.

MLN interviewed experts like former Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency Richard Pound, and players familiar with the loopholes in the system that call into question the accuracy of the positive test numbers in MLB's much-ballyhooed minor league PES testing system.

The Perfect Test goes beyond the Mitchell report to detail a system rife with corruption, loopholes, and a double-standard in testing that may actually be driving, rather than preventing, PES usage.

Pound of Cure is a very frank and exclusive interview with MLN's Christopher Hadorn where Pound expounds on the MItchell report, why MLB drug testing doesn't work, how MLB influenced the IOC decision to drop baseball as an Olympic sport, and what might be done to make MLB testing actually work.

To understand MLB's failures in PES testing, you have to look to their Minor League system first.

In 2001, after failing for seven years to develop a comprehensive testing policy for all of baseball, commissioner Bud Selig announced that he would set up a model program for the minor leagues (MiLB).

The Commissioner of Baseball still has to adhere to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the MLB Players Association (the PA) in major league testing policy, but minor league players are non-union, and they are wholly subject to his control.

The result was a testing system that, with continued modifications, tightened its grip with a 50 game suspension and mandatory counseling for players with first positive tests, and expulsion from the game on second positives.

Positive tests plummeted to just .36% of all those tested in 2006, a fact which MLB trumpeted, and used to thumb its nose at the PA, whom they accused of stonewalling better anti-doping testing at the major league level.

Then Mitchell was released on December 13, 2007

The timing of the report was no accident. Following the MLB Winter Meetings and on the cusp of a holiday that reporters and sources alike take before the pre-season and Spring Training begin, the hope within MLB was to contain any damage that might come from the report's release.

It became immediately clear in reading the report that a lot of players who were doping were being missed by the minor league system, and that the .36% positive test number in 2006 was not even close to a real picture of what was going on in the minors. This begged the question:

If the 'model' minor league system designed by the Commissioner's Office doesn't work as proclaimed, and has obvious loopholes that even the Mitchell Commission didn't find, how can the much more lax 40 man roster testing system ever hope to even slow down PES usage?

What also became apparent was that PES usage is not an illness, but a symptom of much larger problems that afflict all of professional baseball.

Is there any hope that baseball will be able to clean up its image? What are the forces driving it towards "entertainment" status that equates more with wrestling than a sport? Find out in this month's issue of MLN Sports Zone.

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BRIAN ROSS

BRIAN ROSS
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