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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Steroids, Baseball, and American Screams

David Pinto of Baseball Musings has an interesting post on the new MLB/MLBPA agreement on testing for performance enhancers.

Let's take testosterone as an example. It's a banned substance under the CBA (see page 160 of the CBA, page 171 of the PDF). Here's a research paper on the subject of developing a new way of testing for exogenous testosterone use. You see, you can't test for testosterone (T) directly, because we all make testosterone naturally. The standard test looks at the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone (E). The ratio (T/E) should be about 1.0. The IOC used a cut off of 6.0 for the Los Angeles Olympic games. But, as the paper reports:

The overall incidence of urinary T/E in the general population of healthy males not abusing steroids is <0.8%

In other words, .8% is the upper bound of how many people are going to test positive for testosterone abuse falsely. In other words, if you test 1000 baseball players using this criteria, 8 may come up positive, even if no one is using steroids!

In the comments on the post, someone immediately points out that the policy will probably allow for retests before any results are made public. I sure hope that's the case, and that the players association has taken steps to ensure it. But considering the lack of foresight, as well as the foot-in-mouth disease, foot-shooting syndrome, and the slipshod approach to detail (if not outright dishonesty) that has been displayed by MLB in the past few years, I'd be surprized if the agreement, at least as first presented to the players, had any such safeguard in it. And if it did, I'd suspect it was accidental.

And, really, until someone can point me to a definitive study of what effects, if any, that steroids or other substances actually have on a ballplayer's statistics and, by extension, on the outcome of any games in which he participates, I'm inclined to think that this is just one more witch hunt. One more high horse for railing reactionaries to ride instead of enjoying what's in front of them.

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Gazetteer said...

Hey MackZ....

don't know how you touched down at my site, but glad you did; your posts are any interesting myriad indeed.

MackJohnny said...

I was just bouncing around, Gazetteer, and lucked into it. I like what you're doing over there. Good to know that people are watching the fools in office, and in offices.