Friday, May 6, 2011

Drug Testing in Baseball . . . by the numbers

The NY Times reporter Mike Schmidt has a story in today's paper about the very small number of off-season drug tests conducted by Major League Baseball. The closest I can come to finding the original report is here, a blog post which provides a little additional context: namely, that MLB has consistently conducted very few drug tests during the off-season (though the numbers have increased over three years). As Schmidt points out, 138 off-season tests, or slight more than 10% of players, seems very low. It's also a small number as a percent of all tests: 3.6%.

In explaining the small number of tests, Major League Baseball notes that the off-season is short, and that athletes may be anywhere in the world. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) points out that because out-of-competition testing can be done without notice, it's an important deterrent. WADA uses a program it calls Whereabouts, in which elite athletes let testing or sports authorities know their locations during their sport's off-season, so that they can be found for surprise testing. Each country's sports federation actually picks who will be tested and conducts the testing, and testing isn't limited to athletes in the Whereabouts program. But if other international sports can conduct off-season testing, why can't MLB?

Mike is based in Baghdad at the moment -- you can keep up with his daily life through his interesting and quirky blog.

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