Testing for performance-enhancing drugs was not done during MLB’s lockdown period and its frequency was down considerably — though it was not absent — during the 60 regular-season games and the
Testing for performance-enhancing drugs was not done during MLB’s lockdown period and its frequency was down considerably — though it was not absent — during the 60 regular-season games and the postseason in 2020, The Post has learned.
MLB and the Players Association partner on a joint drug prevention and treatment program. The agreement calls for use of a Montreal lab, certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency, for testing. But that lab was closed for much of the period from mid-March through early July in which MLB also did not operate, so there was no testing during that time. Additionally, in some jurisdictions there was difficulty with the protocol due to COVID-19 restrictions, such as sample collectors not being deemed essential personnel, sources said.
“Originally I was told that PED testing would continue as it normally would, as long as the [collectors were] able to perform those drug tests while following CDC [Centers for Disease Control] recommended guidelines regarding social distancing practices,” Yankees reliever and player representative Zack Britton said in an email.
The disruption in normal testing was not made public because the Joint Drug Agreement has confidentiality clauses and also to prevent exploitation.
“The most obvious reason I can see for not making this information public or available to players is that it would become ripe for abuse if it was known ahead of time,” Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller, a member of the union’s executive subcommittee, wrote in an email. “I will say that by the end [of the season] it was pretty clear [that PED testing was down].”
The protocol restarted in spring training 2.0 and carried through the postseason, according to sources, with roughly 1,000 tests done. MLB and the union, as part of their agreement, release a report annually, no later than Dec. 1, detailing the number of tests conducted, the number of positive tests determined and the substances involved. The plan is to release those results this year, as well.
It is possible, therefore, that there will be positives, and suspensions will be doled out for positive tests. The testing is controlled by an independent administrator so that neither MLB nor the union is alerted to who is being tested or when. The testing is supposed to be random, so with 1,289 players having appeared in games this year, there is the likelihood some players were never tested, but it’s also possible some may have been tested more than once.
However, personnel from seven teams contacted by The Post (some of whom did not want to speak for the record) said they were not tested in spring training 2.0, and were not tested until late in the regular season — and then only once.
“I was tested one time at the end of the season,” Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino said. “Zero times during the shutdown or summer camp. And that goes for the whole team. And league.”
White Sox reliever Evan Marshall said, “We didn’t see a drug test until a week left in the season.”
Britton added, “I believe some players were tested once during the 60-game season but it wasn’t every member of our team.”
Players have become familiar with PED drug test collectors being staples around the team, but all of those spoken to said that was not the case this year.
“I personally, was only drug tested one time,” Blue Jays third baseman Travis Shaw said. “But I saw them a few times with other guys. But not nearly as often as other years. Normally I’m tested 6-10 times a year. This year only once.”
Miller wrote: “My understanding was due to [COVID] testing the ability to test for [PEDs] on our normal schedule wasn’t an option and I can appreciate that. Players were certainly never given a notice that that would be the case. Testing was relatively scarce (over my career testing has become increasingly regular), but I cannot speak to how many tests we had or how regular. I was tested however.”
None of the players contacted expressed concerns that the drop in testing led to a rise in cheating.
“I know the program is run by a jointly appointed administrator,” Britton said. “Which means testing is always random. So I don’t know who was tested or how often. Also no, I don’t believe PED use increased. Players are aware of the randomness of testing and that didn’t change this year from my understanding.”
Shaw said: “No I’m not concerned at all. It’s still super random testing and as far as I know we will be tested again this offseason. So if guys try and get around it they will get caught. I’m not worried about it any more than normally. The system is working.”