New York - Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it will immediately implement a plan to test for human growth hormone in the minor leagues.
MLB becomes the first United States professional sports league to conduct blood testing.
Commissioner Bud Selig announced that, effective immediately, minor league players will be subject to random blood testing. The National Center for Drug Free Sport, which handles all the urine sample collections under the Minor League Drug Program, will also perform all blood sample collections. Samples will be sent to the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Salt Lake City for analysis.
"This represents a major development in the detection of a substance that has previously been undetectable and been subject to abuse," said Dr. Gary Green, MLB's medical director. "The combination of widespread availability and the lack of detection have led to reports of use of this drug amongst athletes."
Because minor league players are not members of the MLB Players Association, blood testing is not a subject for collective bargaining. MLB's minor league drug prevention and treatment program already tests for steroids.
"The implementation of blood testing in the Minor Leagues represents a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone," Selig said. "The Minor League Program employs state of the art testing procedures and the addition of HGH testing provides an example for all of our drug policies in the future."
Michael Weiner, the executive director of the MLBPA, released a statement Thursday in response to the announcement.
"The union's position on hGH testing remains unchanged; when a test is available that is scientifically validated and that can be administered safely and without interfering with the players' ability to compete, it will be considered," the statement said. "We have been engaged with the Commissioner's Office on this subject for several months, though they have not shared with us the specifics behind their decision to begin blood testing of minor leaguers. We look forward to further discussions with the Commissioner's Office on this important topic."