In a second chance to make a first impression, MLB is set to implement blood testing for Human Growth Hormone in the minors later this year – according to sources quoted by the estimable Michael Schmidt of The New York Times.
Schmidt says MLB’s decision comes on the heels of the first positive test for HGH, that of a British Rugby player.
The science is still behind the curve on this, but even the possibility of a breakthrough makes it incumbent upon the Major League Baseball Players Association to act, and act quickly. Executive Director Don Fehr has long said that when a reliable test was available, the union would have to look at it. That the process is not perfected is no excuse; Fehr needs to sign on to some sort of exploratory testing program on the big league level, if not this season, then for 2011.
Mark McGwire and the friends were hardly the only ones to be damaged by the Steroid Era. The owners have, at best, looked like hypocritical enablers, and, at worst, like passive-aggressive pushers. The lethargic pace of steroid testing, and the nonsensical, train wreck that is welcoming McGwire back to uniform this spring, has given the union the opportunity to look like the guys who are truly interested in preserving the integrity of the game, even at the partial expense of membership.
Rightly or wrongly (wrongly, I think; the owners probably had more knowledge than union non-player leadership, at least early on) the MLBPA draws the bulk of the public’s blame for the steroid test foot-dragging through the ’90s and ’00s. This – and I write this as one who has supported the union’s moves, stances and purposes, almost uniformly, since the ’70s – is the players’ chance to erase much of the perception in the fans’ minds that they care only for their wallets, and not for the sport itself.
Just come out and say you’re for HGH testing, in the majors, as soon as it is practical.