SAN DIEGO (CBSLA) – Major League Baseball will begin drug testing players for opioids, a move which was precipitated by the overdose death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Furthermore, the league will stop disciplining players for using marijuana.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters Wednesday at the winter meetings in San Diego that the league and the MLB Players Association agreed to begin testing for opioid use next season.
Manfred admitted that Skaggs death was what helped spark the negotiations on the new policy.
“A death of a major league player it is a devastating event…it (Skagg’s death) was a motivating factor in the commissioner’s office and the MLBPA and addressing in the context of our industry what really is a societal problem,” Manfred said.
Under the plan, which was formally announced Thursday, all samples will be tested for opioids, Fentanyl, cocaine and synthetic THC. Players who test positive for these drugs will not be immediately suspended. Instead, they will be placed into a treatment program.
“Any player who tests positive…will be referred to the parties’ Joint Treatment Board (composed of medical professionals specializing in substance abuse and representatives from the Office of the Commissioner and the Players Association) for an initial evaluation and, if appropriate, formulation of a personalized treatment plan,” the league said in a news release.
Along with the opioid testing, the MLB will remove “natural cannabinoids” such as marijuana, CBD and THC from its list of “drugs of abuse.”
“Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league wrote.
The 27-year-old Skaggs was found dead in a suburban Dallas hotel room on July 1 while the team was on the road playing the Texas Rangers.
A toxicology report later determined Skaggs died of an accidental overdose from a mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone.
The DEA is currently investigating whether an Angels public relations employee supplied the drugs to Skaggs and possibly other players on the team.