The Screening Process
A guide to testing policies, from pros to high school
Posted: Tuesday March 11, 2008 1:16PM; Updated: Tuesday March 11, 2008 4:35PM
Two weeks ago members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce told league commissioners that they were mulling legislation that would mandate a universal antidoping policy for every professional sports league in the U.S. But until such a law is enacted (if it ever is), leagues are free to test at their discretion. While each sport prohibits a similar list of performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids and stimulants, there is great variety in the scope and frequency of testing.
Major League Baseball, whose Health Policy Advisory Committee oversees its steroids program, requires each player to be tested twice a season -- once within the first five days of reporting to spring training and again on a randomly selected date. In addition 600 randomly chosen players are tested a third time each year; a maximum of 60 of these tests can take place during the off-season. A player who tests positive for a PED is subject to three additional tests in a year and and penalties of 50 games, 100 games and then a permanent suspension; a player who tests positive for a stimulant will be tested up to six times in a year for the first offense, suspended 25 games for the second offense, 80 games for the third and a ban at the commissioner's discretion for the fourth.
The NFL Management Council operates that league's program, testing all players at least once a year as part of their training-camp physicals and randomly selecting 10 players per team per week during the regular season for additional screening. Players can also be randomly selected for testing up to six times each off-season.
Neither the NBA nor the NHL requires every player to be tested annually. The NBA policy, supervised by a medical director approved by the league and the players' association, allows players to be randomly tested no more than four times each season, with 10 games, 25 games, one year and a permanent ban the incremental penalties for each positive test; the NHL's program, overseen by a league committee, provides for up to two random tests per player, with 20 games, 60 games and a lifetime suspension as consequences for failed tests. Unlike the NBA, the NHL has separate substance abuse and PED policies.
The WNBA's policy, like the NBA's, incorporates both PEDs and other banned substances and is administered by a medical director approved by the league and the players' association. Players can be randomly tested no more than three times each season, with the total number of tests leaguewide capped at the number of teams times the maximum roster size times 2.5.
The NCAA has the National Center for Drug Free Sport test all divisions of its athletes at team and individual championships, with Division I and II athletes also subjected to infrequent off-season tests (with emphasis on D-I baseball and football). At all rounds of NCAA championship events, athletes can be selected randomly for testing or chosen based on position, playing time or place of finish. One positive test incurs a one-year ban; a second means a loss of NCAA eligibility. Each year most Division I and II programs are subjected to out-of-season testing; at D-I schools 18 football players and eight athletes from other sports are tested.
The International Tennis Federation oversees the antidoping program for both the men's ATP tour and the women's WTA tour, with in- and out-of-competition testing. At each ITF-sanctioned event players are selected for testing at the discretion of the ITF (i.e., certain players under suspicion can be targeted); the semifinalists of an event are also typically tested. Top players are included in a Whereabouts Pool, through which they must register home and training addresses for no-notice, out-of-competition testing. There is no set number of tests per player. One positive test for a PED results in disqualification from an event and a two-year suspension; a second failed test triggers a lifetime ban.
The LPGA tour, which implemented its program in January, tests its golfers at tournaments with random and targeted testing, with no minimum or maximum number of tests per year. Its policy includes beta blockers as PEDs for their ability to diminish the effect of adrenaline and presumably steady a player's swing. Marijuana is also among the list of PEDs for its "perceived calming effect."
The PGA Tour, which will begin testing on or about July 8, also does not specify a minimum or maximum number of tests but does allow random out-of-competition testing. The Tour's plan includes a provision under which doping cases can be brought retroactively against retired players. As with the LPGA, both beta blockers and marijuana are classified as PEDs. The National Center for Drug Free Sport will administer the tests for the Tour.
All U.S. Olympic athletes, from figure skaters to weightlifters, are under the year-round testing jurisdiction of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which follows the World Anti-Doping Agency's code. Athletes must submit quarterly updates of home and training addresses for unannounced, out-of-competition screening -- which accounted for 61 percent of tests in 2007 -- with an athlete's ranking and test history and the sport's risk of doping as factors in selecting athletes for testing. WADA intends to have a reliable blood test for HGH in place for 2008.
Each state's individual gaming commission regulates testing in boxing and mixed martial arts. Most states test for steroids in some capacity. In 2002 the New York State Athletic Commission became the first to implement mandatory steroid testing before each fight. In January the Nevada Athletic Commission began the nation's most ambitious program, introducing random, unannounced tests on licensed fighters throughout the year rather than just on fight night.
High school athletic associations in Florida and New Jersey are testing statewide for PEDs, contracting the National Center for Drug Free Sport to conduct its tests. New Jersey's program was launched in the 2006-07 school year, with 500 student-athletes initially tested. Only state-championship qualifiers are screened -- on a random basis -- with 60 percent of tests targeting football, wrestling, track and field, swimming, lacrosse and baseball. One teen tested positive in the first year of testing.
Florida's program began in the fall, with about 1 percent of student-athletes in six targeted sports -- baseball, football, girls' flag football, softball, and boys' and girls' weightlifting -- randomly selected for in-season tests. As in New Jersey, one Florida student tested positive.
In January the University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body of high school sports in Texas, announced the nation's largest and most comprehensive program, with plans to test between 40,000 and 50,000 student-athletes in all sports between February and the end of the '08-09 academic year at a cost of $6 million. That is far greater in scope than either the NCAA (13,000 tests per year) or the U.S. Olympic Committee (8,347 in '07) programs. The year-round plan, also to be administered by the National Center for Drug Free Sport, calls for testing at approximately 30 percent of the UIL's 1,200 member schools. Athletes will be randomly selected, with an average of 55 students tested per school (more at bigger schools, fewer at smaller ones). By comparison, Florida and New Jersey test 1,100 students per year combined at a total cost of about $200,000.
-- Compiled by Joe Lemire, SI.com