MLB: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug exemptions rise for 2nd straight year

By Ronald Blum, AP
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stimulant exemptions in MLB slightly rise again

NEW YORK — There was just one positive steroids test in the major leagues over the full first year of the toughened program, but the number of players authorized to use otherwise banned stimulants because they have ADHD rose by a small amount for the second straight year.

Baseball granted 108 therapeutic use exemptions for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during the year ending with this World Series, according to the annual report released Tuesday by MLB’s independent drug-testing administrator. That was up from 106 a year earlier and 103 in 2007.

“Today’s report contains good news and bad news,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, who has held hearings on drug use in sports.

“The good news is very good — only one positive steroid test. But the bad news is deeply disturbing,” the California Democrat said. “It is hard to believe that the ADD prevalence rate in baseball is that high.”

Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the level of ADHD exemptions, known as TUEs, was not cause for alarm. Manfred said concerns were not justified because ADHD is more prevalent among males and young people.

“These TUEs are based on diagnoses that originally are made by a doctor and they are reviewed by one if not more doctors to verify the diagnoses,” Manfred said. “And I’ve got to rely on the medical people.”

Dr. Gary Wadler, a frequent critic of baseball’s drug-testing program, also praised the sport’s overall progress but said the amount of the TUEs was a concern.

“Is there something unique about the sport of baseball that attracts individuals with ADD? I suspect not. It seems to me an excessively high number,” said Wadler, chairman of the committee that determines the banned-substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency. “This is a problem that merits some independent analysis. Is the TUE process as tight as it needs to be or does it represent some sort of a loophole?”

Other than ADHD, there were just seven TUEs: two each for hypertension and hypogonadism, and one each for narcolepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-concussion syndrome.

“I first raised concerns about these therapeutic use exemptions in hearings in 2008, and baseball promised they would look into the matter. But it appears that no progress has been made,” said Waxman, now chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “I hope that MLB-sanctioned use of ADD drugs has not become a substitute for the rampant steroid use that the league and its players worked so hard to eliminate.”

There were 12 positives for banned stimulants among 3,722 tests under the major league program. Since no players were suspended for stimulants, they either were initial positive tests, which don’t cause suspensions, or are still in the arbitration process. Eleven of the positives were for Adderall, the other for Clobenzorex.

The one positive for a performance-enhancing substance was for nandrolone. Baseball’s only announced suspension for a positive test taken this year under the major league program was given in March to San Francisco Giants pitcher Kelvin Pichardo, who was banned for 50 games.

There also was one positive not related to a test. In March, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games after baseball obtained records that showed he used the female fertility drug HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin.

Baseball conducted 3,722 tests, up from 3,486 the previous year.

“We had a very low number of positives, low numbers on the stimulants and steroids, which is a very good development,” Manfred said.

Wadler agreed with Manfred’s assessment of the overall program.

“Baseball has done a good job over the last several years in cleaning house over the whole issue of performance-enhancing drugs, anabolic steroids,” he said.

Dr. Bryan Smith issued the report under toughened rules baseball adopted last year at the recommendation of former Senate majority leader George Mitchell.

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

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