Major League Baseball will expand its effort to fight performance enhancing drugs to include random blood tests for human growth hormone and other substances during the regular season, under the terms of an agreement with the players union that was first reported by The New York Times.
"This is a very proud day for baseball," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said as he announced the new tests Thursday afternoon.
The testing program calls for a World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory in Montreal to establish "baseline testosterone readings" for all players, in a move that targets the use of synthetic testosterone.
The deal's unveiling comes one day after the Baseball Writers of America returned their Hall of Fame ballots for the class of 2013 without selecting any recently retired players — a rare move that many are interpreting as a sign that the sport's recent "steroid era" eclipsed the accomplished careers of former stars such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Like anabolic steroids, federal law prohibits the use of human growth hormone unless it is prescribed by a doctor, according to the Justice Department. The agency says the misuse of human growth hormone by adults "poses a wide array of serious side effects, including significant cardiovascular disease, irreversible enlargement of the heart, and development of polyps and malignancies of the colon."
Injections of human growth hormone have been credited with "reducing body fat and increasing skeletal muscle mass," according to the FDA. It is also said to help shorten athletes' recovery time.
In 2011, both MLB and the NFL said that they would test for human growth hormone, but neither fully delivered on that promise. MLB instituted a testing program that omitted taking blood samples during the regular season; the NFL postponed its plans after players voiced concerns. Part of their worry, reportedly, has been how having their blood taken might affect their performance.