Saturday, September 13, 2014


Here we go again. Once again, we have a star baseball player in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles has accepted a 25-game suspension after testing positive for amphetamines. It could not come at a worse time for the Orioles, who have already lost Matt Wieters and Manny Machado for the season. The suspension carries into the postseason, which could keep him out at least into the ALCS and at most into the World Series, assuming they make it that far. Davis released a statement.

“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization, and especially the fans. I made a mistake by taking Adderall. I had permission to use it in the past, but do not have a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) this year. I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately.”

We appreciate his apology. We at Bleeding Yankee Blue really like this guy, despite the fact that he plays for the opposition (read WE SHOULD ALL BE ROOTING FOR CHRIS DAVIS). This is disappointing for us. Nevertheless, the explanation is troubling.

He took Adderall without a therapeutic use exemption. My friend and fellow BYB writer Erica Morales outlined what these exemptions are and how they work earlier this year as part of her piece SOMETHING STINKS SURROUNDING MLB, AROD & PEDs. You should read it. The short version is that MLB recognizes that when a player needs a banned substance to treat a legitimate medical condition, he can get an exemption to use the substance after passing an independent medical review. Adderall, a stimulant often prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, is on MLB’s banned substance list. Without the aforementioned exemption, if you use it, you are subject to disciplinary action. Davis had gotten that exemption in the past for Adderall. So, why in the world would he take it without getting that exemption again this year? We will get to that in a minute.

First, a little background. Therapeutic use exemption (TUE’s) are not uncommon. In fact, 122 players got one this year. The shocking thing is that almost all of them - 119 to be exact - got it for Adderall. This past winter, USA Today published an article to bring attention to this - MLB exemptions for Adderall use on the rise. It highlights that almost 10% of all baseball players got this exemption. That is more than double the incidence rate for ADD/ADHD of the general population – 4.4%. That means that on any given major league 25-man roster, you will find 2-3 players taking Adderall on average. MLB defends this by saying that the community of professional baseball players does not reflect the general population, and that a higher incidence rate “is really not that surprising.” The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services did a study and confirmed a higher incidence of ADD/ADHD among the athletes in the study than in the control group - you can read it here. However, the difference was not double, which then does not explain the scale of occurrence among MLB players. Is this the new Cream and Clear?

Baseball protects against the abuse of this exemption by using an independent medical review. Does this really work? I can speak from personal experience on this. A number of years ago I was diagnosed with ADD. I can tell you firsthand that there is no objective test for the disorder. The way you get a diagnosis is that you answer a questionnaire administered and evaluated by a qualified mental health professional. I chose not to get the medication, but if I wanted it, all I had to do was ask and come back every 30 days for a reevaluation (in New York). There is no blood test, no urine test, and no physical examination. The validity of the diagnosis directly correlates to the honesty of the person questioned. Even if you assume the trustworthiness of the tester, how would a set of medical reviewers know whether a diagnosis by a health professional is valid? To think that professional athletes who need to perform at superhuman levels are generally honest about such things is, in the words of General Norman Schwarzkopf, a bunch of bovine scatology.

When Chris Davis says he does “not have a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) this year”, what I hear is “I could not get a therapist to state officially that this is a legitimate medical condition.” Yet he got it in the past. What happened? Did the therapist who originally diagnosed him and prescribed the Adderall get cold feet? Maybe the mounting scrutiny on this practice gave him/her second thoughts. Maybe the view of having their name in the same sentence as Tony Bosch scared them straight. Whatever it was, he got the exemption before and he did not get it this year.

Even without the exemption, Davis still took the Adderall. Maybe it was his declining numbers that made him panic. Through his first 34 games, his slash line was .267/.392/.500 with an OPS of .892. In the next 44 games, which took him into the All-Star break, he was .149/.242/.311 with an OPS of .552. That is a 100+ point drop in every major stat. Did he start to feel the pressure? Who knows? Nevertheless, it tells you something about the mindset and pressures of being a baseball player. It tells you that MLB cannot relent in cracking down on performance enhancing drugs. If this is the new drug of choice, and one out of every 10 players is already using it, maybe a re-review is in order. Maybe the medical review process needs to become stricter, finding a way to confirm that a diagnosis is valid. I am sad to see Chris Davis’ state of affairs, I am concerned about the state of baseball and PED’s, and I hope that this incident and others like it incite further progress in defending the integrity of the game.

--Ike Dimitriadis, BYB Senior Staff Writer
Twitter: @KingAgamemnon
My blog is: Shots from Murderer's Row

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