It seems that Major League Baseball has finally managed to get out in front of other sports with regard to performance-enhancing drugs.

On Thursday, commissioner Bud Selig announced that the owners and players have come to an agreement to allow for random blood testing during the regular season.  The decision was met with considerable applause from both sides, with the MLBPA’s concerns over accuracy of the tests (shared by the NFLPA) having officially been satisfied.

Under the agreement, every player in baseball will be tested at least once during the MLB season, with more tests for individual players also possible if there is probable cause for usage.  These tests are being implemented in hopes of deterring players from using the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is seen as a major issue throughout professional sports. 

In truth, HGH is something of a red herring when it comes to the issue of PEDs in sports.  There is considerable debate over the effectiveness of HGH, as it has not been shown to improve athletic performance beyond a modest increase in explosiveness in sprinting events.  For this reason, many critics question whether or not deterring HGH usage justifies the invasiveness and higher costs associated with blood testing.

They would probably be right, if HGH was the only substance being detected by such tests.

There is absolutely no reason why these blood tests cannot also be used to detect usage of other PEDs.  Steroids and amphetamines have both been major issues within professional baseball since at least the early-1970s, and this year’s round of suspensions revealed that synthetic testosterone – which is much harder to detect than other substances – has become the PED of choice for MLBers looking for an edge.

It is debatable whether or not blood tests will catch more PED users than urine tests.  In general, blood testing provides a more thorough detection of substances in the body than conventional urine testing.  Blood testing, in fact, is considered the only sure way to test athletes for HGH. 

On the other hand, urine testing often has a much longer window for detection than blood tests, which has long been a reason used against the accuracy of the latter method.  Essentially, blood testing trades a more thorough examination for a shorter period of time.

But it is important to remember that MLB is not replacing urine testing with blood testing.  Both methods will be used in conjunction with each other, meaning that MLBers will be tested for PEDs more often and via more methods than ever before.

In other words, it would not be surprising if MLB saw more positive tests for all PEDs in addition to HGH.  

No legislation will ever completely stop the problem of PEDs in professional sports.  It has been an issue in baseball since before the formation of the American League, and the recent problem with synthetic testosterone is a clear indication that players will continue to try and find other ways to get ahead.  But adding blood testing to the current system will only make that much more difficult – and just might deter a few players from continued usage.

Either way, it’s nice to see Major League Baseball, as opposed to professional football, leading the way on this issue for a change.