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Orioles laud expanded drug testing in baseball

BaseballBaltimore OriolesJim JohnsonJ.J. HardyMajor League Baseball

Major League Baseball and the players association have agreed to take the next step toward eradicating performance-enhancing drugs from the game by expanding random blood testing for human growth hormone to during the season and conducting additional testing for testosterone.

Last year, players were tested for HGH during spring training, the offseason and for reasonable cause. Minor league players have been tested randomly during the season since 2010.

"I think with all of us and the players, all we are looking for is a level playing field," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Thursday after the increased testing measures, effective this season, were announced. "We are trying to keep the fans' trust that what they are seeing is real. All I know is that the players and the organizations welcome that, and I applaud them that we continue to make the situation more real."

Orioles closer and union representative Jim Johnson said the players' main concern was ensuring the testing would be dependable.

"When we were first discussing it, we wanted to make sure we were doing it right," Johnson said. "There was a lot of science that needed to be available, and I think going back that was the biggest hold up. We needed to be 100 percent behind the science behind it if you're going to go to this level. Every day it's getting better and better. It's a big step toward the betterment of the game."

To help ensure the quality of the testing, baseball will work with a Montreal testing lab accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency to create a "longitudinal profile program" that will establish testosterone baselines for players. That's designed to scientifically determine whether elevated testosterone levels were in fact caused by a performance-enhancing drug.

Last season, former San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera and Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon received 50-game suspensions for testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

"It wouldn't have happened unless the players wanted it," Johnson said of the increased testing. "There was really no precedent set for it. I think it's just showing that baseball is trying to be proactive and trying to get ahead of it. We've had our problems obviously, but I think this shows we're doing everything in our best interest to keep the game at an even playing field. I think it's a pretty important step for the future of the game.

"I can only speak for our team, but there was nobody opposed to it," Johnson added. "Everybody was in favor of it. The only issue we were ever worried about was the science behind it. We didn't want to agree to something and the science not be able to back it up. That was really our only concern. We all want to have a clean game. There really wasn't an issue with the players."

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said he believed expanded testing for HGH was the logical next step toward attacking baseball's dubious drug history.

"I think with the steroids, I think that's pretty much gone with the random [urine] testing," Hardy said. "The next thing would be HGH if any of that is going on. I don't speculate that there's a lot of it going on, but if there is, then yeah, I think it would be good for the game to make sure it isn't happening. I think to clean up the game and make sure there's nothing going on would be a big step forward."

The announcement came a day after it was revealed that no players were elected to the Hall of Fame in this year's class. In their first year of eligibility, all-time home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens — both of whom have been linked to PED use — didn't come close to the 75 percent of votes needed from the Baseball Writers' Association of America for induction.

"It's helpful when you have a level playing field for everyone," said Dan Duquette, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations. "Major League Baseball has had a testing program in place for a long time, and it's evolved. This is another step in the program's progress."

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