Major League Baseball officially announced a number of changes to it’s drug use and testing policies on Thursday, most notably removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” while announcing mandatory tests for cocaine and opioids, which will take place starting in 2020 during Spring Training.
“The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” league Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said, in an official statement. “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.”
League officials said changes to the policy were agreed to by the Players Association and made to protect athletes from lethal and addictive substances.
Marijuana will now be treated the same as alcohol and players caught using cannabis will be referred to a treatment board under specific conditions. However, athletes cannot be punished for failing to participate in a treatment program.
The policy change comes several months following the sudden death of Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs, whose autopsy showed a presence of opioids and alcohol in his body. Furthermore, a medical examiner concluded that Skaggs choked on his vomit while under the influence of “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone intoxication.”
“I think you saw it in terms of the reaction following that terrible event,” Manfred said, in the below video from the Los Angeles Post-Examiner. “I think that it was a motivating factor in the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA getting together and addressing in the context of our industry what is really a societal problem in terms of opioids.”