Friday, February 15, 2008

The time has come: Store blood tests

In the days since the Clemens/McNamee trainwreck, I was thinking how we can avoid this as we spin forward. How are the players of today and tomorrow going to prove they are playing clean? Gammons discussed this today, sort of. Buster Olney once proposed the storing of blood samples until a reasonable test is developed. The MLBPA has repeatedly shot this idea to smithereens.

I was checking up on some other stuff and I remembered that idea. Why aren't we taking samples NOW for when there's an appropriate test? Would there be a greater deterrent? Some quick checking around and I found this from a month ago (during the Selig/Fehr/Mitchell hearings), which I thought was interesting:

[World Anti-Doping Agency's new president John] Fahey challenged baseball's policy on human growth hormone. Baseball has pledged to adopt any validated urine test but does not test blood. Baseball said there is no commercially available validated test for HGH.

"Equally reprehensible is their blatant disregard for the truth," Fahey said. "Contrary to what they have told Congress this week, there is a reliable test for HGH; the storing of blood is practical, in fact has been effectively in practice for some time in World Anti-Doping Code-compliant testing."

The WADA statement said commercial kits for HGH blood testing are in development and that it offered to host a meeting between MLB and WADA experts. WADA also said baseball should store blood and serum, which might contain HGH that is more stable, for future testing.

[Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations] pointed out that Fahey said an HGH blood test for commercial use is only in the process of being created.
Now, I know these two sides (the Union and WADA) don't trust each other any more than Clemens and McNamee, but what's the harm in collecting samples until there's a test? If for no other reason than as a deterrent. Tell ya what, if I was a player on HGH and they started storing blood/serum, I'd stop instantly.

I don't want to hear the cost of testing since MLB is now a $6B business. The cost can be borne by every team. Thirty teams x 25 players x one test per month x $50 test (estimate) = $450,000. And of that estimate is off by a lot (say it's $200/test, 4x higher), the cost is still less than $2M. Seems like an awfully small amount to pay for integrity, no? Considering that MLB paid approx. $20M (10x my higher cost estimate!) to Mitchell for his report, that seems darn reasonable. Now, that estimate is for only players on MLB clubs and therefore inherently understated, but so what? Again, if we say it will cost $5M/year to test all MLB players once a month, all year, that STILL seems reasonable. In other words, at $5M/year to test everyone for HGH, each team pays less than $170K. Really, what's the hold up? The Union? Probably, but it's time to change directions, for the good of the game.

It's an idea who's time has come. Integrity has a cost and a value. Baseball has lost a good degree of it's integrity over the last 20 years. It's time to get it back.

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