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Major League Baseball to expand drug testing program

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Major League Baseball will test for human growth hormone throughout the regular season and increase efforts to detect abnormal levels of testosterone, a decision the NFL used to pressure its players.

Baseball players were subject to blood testing for HGH during spring training last year, and Thursday’s agreement between management and the MLB Players Association expands that throughout the season. Those are in addition to urine tests for other performance-enhancing drugs.

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Under the changes to baseball’s drug agreement, the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Laval, Quebec, will keep records of each player, including his baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and will conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) tests of any urine specimens that ‘‘vary materially.’’

‘‘This is a proud and a great day for baseball,’’ commissioner Bud Selig said after two days of owners’ meetings. ‘‘We’ll continue to be a leader in this field and do what we have to do.’’

The announcement came one day after steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa failed to gain election to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Commenting on the timing, Selig noted the drug program changes had long been in the works ‘‘but it wasn’t too bad, was it?’’

Selig reflected on how far baseball had come on performance enhancing drug issues.

‘‘This is remarkable when you think of where we were 10, 12, 15 years ago and where we are today,’’ he said. ‘‘Nobody could have dreamed it.’’

Baseball began random drug testing in 2003, testing with penalties the following year and suspensions for first offenders in 2005. Initial penalties were lengthened from 10 days to 50 games in 2006, when illegal amphetamines were banned. The number of tests has gradually increased the past decade. Selig called the latest change ‘‘yet another indication how far this sport has come.’’

Rob Manfred, executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said each player will be tested at least once.

‘‘Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair,’’ union head Michael Weiner said in a statement. ‘‘I believe these changes firmly support the players’ desires while protecting their legal rights.’’

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