TAMPA, Fla. -- Just 48 hours before the post-Australia first pitch of the 2014 regular season, Major League Baseball has made it more difficult to cheat using performance-enhancing drugs. And for those who are caught, the penalties are more severe.
MLB, in cooperation with the Players Association, announced a number of upgrades Friday to the joint drug program, which now includes more frequent testing and longer suspensions. The penalty for a first offense is 80 games, up from 50, and a second is 162 games, an increase from 100. A third offense is punishable by a lifetime ban.
Also, a PED violation renders a player ineligible for the postseason and for a playoff share. According to the previous version of the JDA, offenders already were banned from the All-Star Game.
"Although we had the strongest program in professional sports before these changes," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement, "I am committed to constantly finding ways to improve the program in order to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the game."
Selig, along with the union's executive director, Tony Clark, wanted to address the rising volume of complaints about players not being punished enough for their PED violations. Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $53-million contract with the Cardinals in November and played during the postseason for the Tigers in October after serving a 50-game suspension. In 2012, Melky Cabrera was banned for 50 games while playing for the Giants but later signed a two-year, $16-million contract with the Blue Jays.
"At the end of the day, what we're trying to do is just get it right," Yankees rightfielder Carlos Beltran said. "Hopefully, the game of baseball is clean like everyone wants it to be."
As far as testing, the number of in-season random urine collections will increase from 1,400 to 3,200 -- in addition to the collections already done during spring training and the playoffs. The random blood collections for HGH testing has been increased to 400 during the season after the mandatory 1,200 collections in spring training. MLB also will use the more advanced carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test on at least one specimen from every player and added dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) -- another steroid -- to the list of banned substances.
"Experience proves that increased penalties alone are not sufficient," Clark said in a statement. "That's why the players pushed for a dramatic increase in the frequency and sophistication of our tests, as well as comprehensive changes in the number of other areas of the program that will serve as a deterrent."