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DRUG TESTING

Breaking it down

There are different procedures for different sports

August 02, 2013|Lance Pugmire
  • Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season -- a 65 game suspension -- for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy after vehemently denying that he was a cheater.
Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of the season… (Joe Sargent / Getty Images )

Major League Baseball

Drug testing began: March 2003.

Biggest catches: Ryan Braun (65-game suspension), Manny Ramirez (50 games), Melky Cabrera (50 games), Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Grimsley. Plus more than 30 minor leaguers and free agents in 2012.

Drugs of choice: Testosterone (increases strength, speeds recovery after workouts); Adderall (attention-deficit stimulant).

Strengths: In 2012, did 5,136 random drug tests (3,955 urine, 1,181 blood tests) on players. Seven tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, 11 for stimulants. MLB gets high marks for costly carbon isotope ratio (CIR) blood tests to pinpoint testosterone use; also uses "biological passport" testing to monitor an athlete's test results over time. In addition to lab testing, MLB relies on a team of investigators to pursue possible drug violations -- Braun's suspension followed the Biogenesis probe.

Weaknesses: It took the breaking of nearly every hallowed power-hitting record before MLB aggressively began testing players for performance-enhancing substances. With doping continuing, some argue testing should be expanded more in the off-season.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, August 03, 2013 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 78 words Type of Material: Correction
Sports drug testing: In the Aug. 2 Sports section, an article about drug testing in major sports reported that the NBA and NCAA do not conduct off-season drug testing. The NBA subjects its players to six random, unannounced drug tests, four during the season and two in the off-season, a league spokesman said. The NCAA does not test for stimulants and street drugs year-round, but athletes can be tested for steroids, masking agents and diuretics throughout the year.

NBA

Drug testing began: 1983.

Biggest catches: Hedo Turkoglu (Orlando, 20-game suspension in 2013 for steroid metenolone); Brandon Rush (Golden State, five games, 2010); Rashard Lewis (Orlando, 10 games, 2010 for testosterone); Ricky Davis (Clippers, five games, 2008); Darius Miles (Boston, 10 games, 2008 for amphetamine-like phentermine).

Drugs of choice: EPO, which triggers the production of red blood cells and boosts stamina; testosterone for strength and workout/game recovery.

Strengths: Commissioner David Stern recently said he'd like to incorporate a blood-testing plan for HGH by the start of the coming season. New collective-bargaining agreement beefed up discipline for first-time drug offenders from five to 20 games, and subjects every player in the league to six random drug tests per season.

Weaknesses: Currently does only urine tests. No blood tests to track EPO or HGH, even though NBA players are subject to such tests when participating in the Olympics. No off-season testing; and no investigative arm to pursue outside leads on possible drug violations.

Track and field

Drug testing began: 1976 Olympics.

Biggest catches: Ben Johnson (1988 100-meter gold medal stripped), Marion Jones (multiple medals stripped), Dwain Chambers (British sprinter received lifetime ban from Olympics but got ban overturned).

Drug of choice: Synthetic testosterone and EPO, or erythropoietin, which improves endurance and clears the system quickly.

Strengths: High-profile Olympic sport screened by the "gold standard" World Anti-Doping Agency Code, which provides expanded banned substances list, independent testing, out-of-competition tests, investigative units working alongside law enforcement, and invests in research to root out new PEDs.

Weaknesses: Uneven off-season testing is left to each nation's anti-doping agency. Jamaica has a gifted track team, but there were only 106 drug tests among athletes in all sports in the 2012 Olympic year; U.S. athletes took more than 4,000 tests.

NFL

Drug testing began: 1987.

Biggest catches: Shawne Merriman (San Diego Chargers linebacker); Brian Cushing (Houston Texans LB); Santonio Holmes (New York Jets wide receiver); Justin Blackmon (Jacksonville Jaguars WR); 35 players tested positive in 2012.

Drugs of choice: Synthetic testosterone; human growth hormone.

Strengths: The league conducted roughly 15,000 urine drug tests last season, including playoffs, and each player was tested at least once, according to the NFL. Each week, 10 players from a team are tested randomly, and they must provide a sample regardless of whether they were chosen for consecutive tests. The league is moving toward HGH, collecting blood samples in training camps to establish the threshold of a positive test.

Weaknesses: An anonymous NFC player told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this year he believes 10 to 15 players per team use HGH. The league has yet to introduce the more sophisticated CIR testing.

Boxing/MMA

Drug testing began: Boxing: 1983 (Nevada State Athletic Commission); MMA: 2001.

Biggest catches: Boxers: Fernando Vargas (steroids, 2002), James Toney (steroids, 2005, 2007), Lamont Peterson (synthetic testosterone, 2012); UFC heavyweight Alistair Overeem (elevated testosterone, 2012).

Drugs of choice: Testosterone, EPO.

Strengths: Some boxers, including welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and former champion Nonito Donaire, sought to supplement state athletic-commission testing with that done by the independent Voluntary Anti-Doping Assn., which does multiple random drug tests and employs CIR testing to spot synthetic testosterone. Floyd Mayweather Jr. requires that he and his opponents pass U.S. Anti-Doping Agency tests.

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