Cameron’s stimulant suspension, advance drug test notification

Mike Cameron received a 25-day suspension for testing positive again under the stimulant policy. ESPN story. It’s the “tainted supplement” track, except with an interesting twist:

He later issued a statement through his agent, saying doctors for the players’ association helped him narrow down what triggered the positive test.

“After all of the analysis and testing, I can only conclude that a nutritional supplement I was taking was tainted,” he said. “Unfortunately, the actual supplement is gone, and therefore cannot be tested. Without the actual supplement in hand, the rules are clear, and I must accept the suspension.”

As skeptical as I am generally of the “supplement” use, I’ve also argued that the current rules are really hard on players, particularly players who don’t speak English as their first language. There’s no list of approved supplements (or there wasn’t last time I looked into this), no certification process, or anything. And you can’t expect players to run everything they take through a test themselves to determine if there are trace amounts of a different drug. I wanted to see MLB and the Players’ Association work together to start making inroads into the problem, and this may be a sign that the union, at least, is taking an active interest in looking into what supplements might cause problems for their players.

Anything that helps players avoid positive tests as a result of unintentional ingestion is good. If nothing else, it would help remove this excuse.

Over at the New York Times, a story today reports teams received advance notice of drug testing:

Drug testers contracted by the league routinely alert team officials a day or more before their arrival at ballparks for what is supposed to be random, unannounced testing of players. By eliminating the surprise factor, the practice undermines the integrity of the testing program, antidoping experts said.

Does it ever. Teams could alert their guys a day early? Wow. You wouldn’t be able to pass a test for steroids, most likely, but the extremely short-lived stimulants? Absolutely. Get the word out, and you greatly help the chances that those players get busted. Even if you think they’re detectable for a couple days, knowing to give the “don’t dose tonight if you were ever dosing, wink wink” signal helps. Huge deal.

This is one of the biggest holes in the minor league program. There were constant rumors that teams had tons of time to prepare for random tests, and that they knew who would be tested. As a result, many people viewed the whole program as something of a joke. I believe the rumors have bubbled up in public, but I don’t have a cite handy.

The possibility I thought of immediately – and this isn’t mentioned at all – is that the team could take a much more active role in having a player dodge the test. Say you’ve got a known steroid user on the team, and you find out the testers are on their way, and without knowing the cycles, you know they’re in trouble if they get tested the next day. You could easily DL them and send them off to see a specialist about that nagging hamstring injury (should inflammation for pitchers) to buy some time. They’re not going to get a

You’d have to be really clever about the “how” and hope the league doesn’t find out, or that player doesn’t test positive when they catch up to them, but I’m sure you can think about how that game could be played.

Without knowing test dates, we can’t go through the transaction logs for weird player moves or anything, so we can’t know if anything like this happened. It’s interesting, though, and I hope baseball’s able to figure out how to do surprise testing in a way that’s a guaranteed surprise.

Also, Howard Bryant, author of the fine Juicing the Game, replied in comments to my disagreement with his ESPN article.