With the unforeseen death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs last season and an opioid crisis looming over Major League Baseball, MLB and the Player’s Association gathered to make a change Thursday.
The MLB and MLBPA announced plans to take a more holistic approach towards disciplining players who test positive for opioids. Under the new changes, the MLB will start testing for the following substances: opioids, fentanyl, cocaine, and synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol.
Rather than facing an immediate suspension, players who test positive for these substances in the future will be offered treatment and proper evaluations to discourage the stigma around addiction.
In addition, the MLB and minor league system have agreed to remove marijuana from the list of drugs of abuse and will be treated the same as alcohol as part of changes.
According to the MLB union head Tony Clark, moves by states to decriminalize marijuana coaxed the decision to eliminate marijuana off the banned substance list.
The passing of Skaggs, who was discovered in July to have the opioid fentanyl (an opioid 80-100 times stronger than heroin) in his system, shocked the MLB governing body and its players. Not even five years ago Skaggs underwent Tommy John Surgery, which may have led to an accidental addiction.
In a sport where muscles are exacerbated to their limits for eight months straight, the use of common painkillers is undeniable. Ranging from Oxycodone, Percocet and Vicodin to name a few, the withdrawals from waning off of these drugs can be fatal.
Starting next season, players and staff will have to attend mandatory educational programs in 2020 and 2021, discussing the dangers of opioid medications and practical approaches to using marijuana.
Major League Baseball is hoping this change in policy will encourage players who struggle with addiction to seek proper care, rather than being fined and ridiculed.