Do We Need Zero Tolerance on PEDs?


Zero tolerance in the real world is a disaster. It results in eight year old kids being arrested and handcuffed for bringing an aspirin or nail clippers to school. It results in excellent workers losing their jobs for a positive marijuana test despite no evidence of off-hours recreational use having any effect whatsoever on job performance.

In the imperfect world of lab testing of urine samples, blood samples, and other such evaluations, there is a general standard of 98% to 99% accuracy. In real numbers, if

50,000,000 people have such tests in a given year, 50,000 to 100,000 will receive inaccurate results. Some may be due to negligence on the part of lab workers, some may be due to improperly maintained laboratory equipment, some may be due to labeling mixups, some may be false positives due to events such as the documented findings of opiates in a person’s blood due to the

ingestion of poppy seed bagels, and some are documented but never explained.

If there are 1,000 different players wearing major league uniforms in a given season, and each is tested on the average of four times during the season, there will be an expected instance of 40 to 80 incorrect test results.

Those are the facts.

While there should be harsher penalties for PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) use among major league ballplayers then are presently in force, Draconian zero tolerance is not the answer.

A 50 game suspension for a first offense is an adequate penalty, but only if the there is a split sample sent to at least two different laboratories with findings of identical results. A second offense should then be a year’s suspension, plus a $1 M fine. A permanent ban could then be imposed for a third offense.

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