For those that were scoring at home during yesterday’s hearings on performance enhancing substances in Major League Baseball, the topic of amphetamines may have been the one aspect from one member of Congress on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that caught Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr off-guard. After all, it’s not as if these three came with that topic as something that would be of key interest. In opening statements, Selig mentioned stimulants (3 times) and amphetamines (twice). Donald Fehr mentioned them only once. But, the man that commissioned the report that has caused the entire recent furor, former Senator George Mitchell, the word “amphetamine” isn’t anywhere to be found within his opening statement. Performance enhancing substances? 8 times. Steroids? 9 times. Human-Growth Hormone? Twice. "Stimulant", "amphetamine", "Greenies", "speed"… any name that could be construed for substances considered a stimulant? Nada. Zip. Zilch.
But during questioning from the committee, Massachusetts Democrat John Tierney brought up a little discussed topic, and some figures around it, that caught my attention: TUEs
Therapeutic-use exemptions (TUEs) for certain substances deemed in violation of MLB’s drug policy, can be applied for by a player, with doctor recommendation. It’s what substances are being requested that seems to have provided a sizable loophole around the stimulant issue, and caught the eye of Tierney after reading the Mitchell Report.
A breakdown of TUEs shows the following:
- Total number of players subject to testing: 1356
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Granted: 35
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Withdrawn: 0
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Not Granted: 0
TUE Medication Breakdown:
- ADD/ADHD Medications: 28
- Hypertension Medications: 4
- Androgen Deficiency Medications: 3
- Total number of players subject to testing: 1354
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Granted: 111
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Withdrawn: 2
- Therapeutic Use Exemptions Not Granted: 13
TUE Medication Breakdown:
- ADD/ADHD Medications: 103
- Hypertension Medications: 5
- Alopecia Medications: 1
- Androgen Deficiency Medications: 2
So, the year after the ban on stimulants was reached, the number of TUEs granted went from 35 to 111. In terms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) medications, the figure bolted from 28 in ’06 to 103 in ’07. For the uninitiated, meds for ADD or ADHD, such as Ritalin, Concerta, Dexedrine, and Adderall contain methylphenidate and amphetamine.
Tierney confronted Selig and Fehr about the sharp spike in the exemptions by asking how MLB players could have levels of ADD or ADHD “almost eight times the adult use in our population?” As Dr. Gary Wadler, chairman of committee that determines the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned-substances list said to The AP, "If we had this percentage increase in the general population, it would be on the evening news as a national epidemic. It's an outrageous number."
The answers were the dance only those steeped in politics can muster. Fehr mentioned that it might be due to the young age of those playing in MLB. Selig was more vague, simply stating that they were looking into it.
(Select Read More to see the rest of this original article)
Requests for TUEs are submitted for review, and then granted by Bryan W. Smith, the independent program administrator for MLB.
It should be noted that Mitchell requested the data presented here during his investigation, but that the MLBPA and MLB refused to provide it. Michael Weiner, the MLBPA’s general counsel told the NY Times that, both sides felt it “was not appropriate” for Mr. Mitchell to see the figures. Upon request by the House committee, both parties agreed to release the figures.
The skeptic sees why there might be the increase. After all, the “Greenie culture” has been in baseball far, far longer than the steroid or PED culture that now exists.
The current Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) that was reached in 2006 allows a player to test positive once before public discloser of his name is released and suspensions occur. Since that time, Neifi Perez was suspended twice, once on July 6, 2007 for 25 games and less than a month later, on August 3, 2007 for 50 games. The other player suspended last year was Mike Cameron on October 31, 2007 for 25 games.
(See a list of all Drug suspensions in baseball)
That’s it. Can one speculate that the massive spike in requests and TUEs is being done to allow players to mask stimulant usage in a non-therapeutic form? Certainly, not all, but one would be hard pressed to find some method by which the massive influx of ADD and ADHD medication requests have jumped in just one year.
In 1992, then commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steve Howe for life, after his seventh suspension for drug use, cocaine most exclusively. The MLBPA challenged the suspension, and it was overturned by arbitrator, George Nicolau based on the argument that Howe used cocaine to battle ADD. In my interview with Dick Moss, the former MLBPA general counsel, who became a player agent, and represented Howe, he stood by why Howe used that stimulant over Ritalin.
“Steve had a very addictive personality. He was sent to various rehab centers and was given treatment that most other people get, but there was no understanding of his A.D.D. problem – that didn't come until later…,” said Moss.
So, there may be legitimate reasons for some players to use certain drugs for ADD or ADHD. Howe, sadly, died in a car accident while under the influence of stimulants and alcohol.
So, when the numbers in medications for ADD and ADHD increase so dramatically, as they did last year, it’s not surprising that members of Congress got “amped up” after seeing MLB’s fat TUEs numbers.