Marijuana will no longer be on Major League Baseball’s list of banned substances while samples will be tested for opioids, cocaine, fentanyl and synthetic THC as part of its updated drug program.
A statement released by the MLB and players union on Thursday confirmed the move towards a “treatment-based approach to drugs of abuse” with the rules coming into effect in 2020.
Marijuana-related conduct will now “be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct” the statement said.
It added that any player who tests positive for substances such as cocaine, fentanyl and synthetic THC will be referred for evaluation and ascribed a “personalised treatment plan” if appropriate. Only those who fail to cooperate with their prescribed treatment plan will be subject to discipline.
Educational Programs on the dangers of opioid pain medications and practical approaches to marijuana will also be mandatory for all players and club personnel during the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
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The change in policy comes after the death of Los Angeles pitcher Tyler Skaggs at the age of just 27 last July. An autopsy found Skaggs had died accidentally after choking on his own vomit. A toxicology report found alcohol and opioids in his system contributed to his death.
MLB Deputy Commissioner & Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said: “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball. It is our hope that this agreement – which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education – will help protect the health and safety of our players.”
Tony Clark, Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said: “Players are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding our drug-testing regimen to include opioids, and want to take a leadership role in helping to resolve this national epidemic.”