Union opposes blood tests, but some players say it might be time

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    Union opposes blood tests, but some players say it might be time


    Posted on Mon, Jun. 12, 2006


    Union opposes blood tests, but some players say it might be time

    BY JAKE SCHALLER
    The Gazette

    DENVER - Bring it on, says Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brett Tomko.

    Bring on more tests. Bring on a blood test. Bring on anything that will rid Major League Baseball of performance-enhancing drugs.

    "I'll do whatever they want me to do; I'm all about it," Tomko said last week in the visitors locker room at Coors Field. "Whatever they need to do."

    Tomko's comments came in the wake of revelations that journeyman reliever Jason Grimsley had admitted to federal investigators that he took steroids, amphetamines and human growth hormone, known as HGH, and stated that other major leaguers were using performance-enhancers as well.

    Most revealing were Grimsley's comments about HGH. When baseball announced its new, tougher policy on performance-enhancing drugs in January 2005, HGH was on the list of banned substances. But because there is not yet a reliable urine test that can detect the drug, and because the Major League Baseball Players Association balked at the addition of blood tests because of privacy concerns, there is a major loophole in the league's policy.

    That's exactly why Grimsley was using HGH. According to a search warrant affidavit, "Grimsley stated that since Major League Baseball began its drug testing for steroids and amphetamines, the only drug that he has used is human growth hormone."

    And that's why Tomko is ready for a blood test.

    "They take our urine, so they might as well take our blood," Tomko said. "We get tested for other stuff by our blood for our physicals, so they could do it right then as far as I'm concerned. Just hold onto it for as long as they want."

    Grimsley was released by Arizona and Monday was suspended for 50 games, which would apply if he signs with another team.

    The Major League Baseball Players Association opposes blood tests. Other players interviewed for this story would not go so far as to say they would recommend it to the players union.

    "I think you really have to look at it," Dodgers pitcher Aaron Sele said. "You're talking about personal rights issues and things like that. I really haven't thought of it deeply enough to make an educated comment about it."

    Rockies second baseman Jamey Carroll said he didn't know enough about the testing available to endorse a blood test.

    "I don't know what is right, what is wrong," Carroll said. "Maybe somebody said `blood test,' and now everybody's running with it. Maybe it's not the right thing. Maybe it is. ... I have nothing to fear, so it is what it is, and obviously I'll go with what the union decides to go with. That's who I am."

    But when asked if he would be OK with a blood test if, hypothetically, a blood test definitely could determine the use of HGH, he said, "Why would I not be?"

    Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny said he would not oppose blood tests if they were mandated, but he would prefer not to take them because he doesn't like needles.

    Colorado pitcher Josh Fogg, who also expressed a fear of needles, said he would comply with a blood test "if it came down to it." But he added "I don't think anybody wants that hanging over their heads. We're already getting drug tested now, and it's working. The amount of positive tests are way down. . . . There are smarter people than me working on it right now, and I doubt it will be long before we have (a urine test)."

    An anti-doping expert, who asked not to be identified because his organization does not want to publicly comment on major league baseball, said a reliable urine test for HGH is "down the road." The expert said a urine test is difficult because there is only a small amount of growth hormone released into the urine.

    Human growth hormone is a protein produced naturally in the body and Is responsible for growth from infancy to adulthood.

    Human growth hormone can be prescribed legally for children who are lagging behind significantly in growth and size. Illegally obtained HGH can be beneficial to athletes because it helps them maintain and build muscles, burn fat and recover more quickly from strenuous activity.

    When synthetic HGH is introduced to the body, however, the body does not produce as much of the protein naturally. According to the anti-doping expert, blood tests look for a reduction of the naturally produced growth hormone.

    Blood tests for HGH were used at the Olympic games in Athens and Turin, and the expert contacted for this story said the test is reliable. But many disagree.

    The Washington Post reported Sunday that the NFL Players Association did not plan to begin blood testing of its players for HGH and that it doubted the tests' validity.

    "When you start talking about coming in to take a person's blood, that's different than taking someone's urine," NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw told The Post.

    With no test for HGH, the only way a player could be caught, it seems, is if he is found in possession of the drug.

    Tomko said he had heard of players using HGH, and Penny said "it's obvious that it's going on," but both said they never had seen the substance or ever seen anyone use it.

    Fogg also said he never had seen anyone use HGH.

    "People aren't carrying it around in a glass case and showing everybody," he said. "Guys won't even keep legal stuff in their lockers - just stuff you might pick up at GNC - because they're afraid of somebody seeing it and thinking it's something else. I don't think people want questions about those things."

    But while some players scoffed at the notion that drug use is rampant in baseball, Grimsley's revelations suggest it is still happening. In the search warrant affidavit, agent Jeff Novitsky said Grimsley detailed widespread use of amphetamines, named players who used steroids and HGH and speculated that "boatloads" of players were buying performance-enhancing drugs from Grimsley's source.

    If the names Grimsley revealed to investigators - they were blacked out on the affidavit - become public, Major League Baseball will be pressured to improve its drug testing. Colorado pitcher Ray King, who said Friday the Grimsley issue "is about to blow up," said increased testing might be inevitable.

    That will be fine with Tomko.

    "I hope they do come up with a test and people that are doing it, they have to pay the price," he said. "If I'm going to go out there clean and without anything in my body, I want to know the other guys that I'm facing are the same."

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    As much as this is nice PR on his part, and he sounds so standup... this framing and posturing simply leads to people using more risky substances to attain competitive advantage. It simply ushers in the new era of finding substances we dont know much about, to get the effects that test and hgh are designed for. The problem is test and hgh do it with less side effects and you can manage the risk with proper doctor supervision ( think HRT).

    So, the simple hormones that you can test for are replaced by more novel, esoteric, and potentially risky substances.

    Look at this board, and the past year since the first prohormone ban....as much as 4AD and 1T and other prohormones and steroids were troublesome as OTC supplements, they sure as heck were less dangerous than people using all the remaining OTC liver toxic stuff that survived the first ban.

    Baseball is doing what olympics went thru a few years ago - you're looking at an ever increasing game of how to avoid detection and using stuff that is simply trying to create the effects of a good test or hgh cycle.

    fact is, people will always do what they think is necessary to get their contract, get the body they think they need, etc.

    In the name of getting rid of the scourge of steroids/hgh, etc, the irony is people will risk more health problems, never mistake being able to test for something as de facto reducing the harm or prevalence of performance enhancers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by akp2004
    As much as this is nice PR on his part, and he sounds so standup... this framing and posturing simply leads to people using more risky substances to attain competitive advantage. It simply ushers in the new era of finding substances we dont know much about, to get the effects that test and hgh are designed for. The problem is test and hgh do it with less side effects and you can manage the risk with proper doctor supervision ( think HRT).

    So, the simple hormones that you can test for are replaced by more novel, esoteric, and potentially risky substances.

    Look at this board, and the past year since the first prohormone ban....as much as 4AD and 1T and other prohormones and steroids were troublesome as OTC supplements, they sure as heck were less dangerous than people using all the remaining OTC liver toxic stuff that survived the first ban.

    Baseball is doing what olympics went thru a few years ago - you're looking at an ever increasing game of how to avoid detection and using stuff that is simply trying to create the effects of a good test or hgh cycle.

    fact is, people will always do what they think is necessary to get their contract, get the body they think they need, etc.

    In the name of getting rid of the scourge of steroids/hgh, etc, the irony is people will risk more health problems, never mistake being able to test for something as de facto reducing the harm or prevalence of performance enhancers.

    Good points.....the unintended consequences of laws are always interesting to watch unfold.
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