MLB announces implementation of HGH testing for minor league players

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Blood testing for human growth hormone will be implemented immediately in the minor leagues, Major League Baseball announced Thursday, a landmark stride in the anti-doping world even if the actual test has netted just one positive result.

“If you don’t do any testing, you have a license to cheat,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which partners with MLB and the NFL on the Partnership for Clean Competition. “Now, there’s a risk you’ll be caught.”

The random testing of minor leaguers for the performance-enhancing substance was hailed by Commissioner Bud Selig as “a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone,” credited with increasing strength. Selig was allowed to install the testing on the heels of a positive result given earlier this year by a British rugby player because minor leaguers are not represented by the powerful MLB Players Assn.

“The union’s position on HGH testing remains unchanged: When a test is available that is scientifically validated and that can be administered safely and without interfering with the players’ ability to compete, it will be considered,” union Executive Director Michael Weiner said in a prepared statement. “[The commissioner’s office has] not shared with us the specifics behind their decision to begin blood testing of minor leaguers. We look forward to further discussions.”

Baseball officials said the importance of Thursday’s announcement was to put “a system in place,” with the goal being to implement more effective testing as it develops. Currently, there is no certified urine test to effectively detect HGH.

Anti-doping experts such as Los Angeles scientist Don Catlin assess that the test to be first used by baseball will probably generate a positive result only if an athlete has used the substance within 24 hours of providing the blood sample.

“I wish I didn’t have to be so skeptical,” Catlin said. “I don’t have great expectations for it, but it’s all we have right now.”

Authorities in England are working to finalize developments on another HGH test that Catlin said will be able to establish use three or four weeks before the sample being taken.

“Right now, the window [between use and providing a sample] is narrow, but this is not likely to be the last test we use,” said Gary Green, Major League Baseball’s medical director.