Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have had initial conversations about randomly testing players for opioids following an autopsy report that showed oxycodone and fentanyl in the blood of late Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
While the discussions are in preliminary stages, both sides expect them to ramp up in the coming weeks and progress in the offseason, sources told ESPN. Though contention on economic issues has sullied the MLB-MLBPA relationship in recent years, they have found common ground on drug-related issues, particularly with performance enhancers.
The national opioid crisis hit baseball with the July 1 death of Skaggs, a 27-year-old left-hander. The autopsy done by the Tarrant County (Texas) medical examiner's office indicated Skaggs died after choking on his own vomit in his sleep. Skaggs' family has retained lawyer Rusty Hardin and, in a statement, said his death "may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels." MLB has launched an investigation into Skaggs' death.
MLB does not currently test major league players for opioids, though they are on the league's banned-substance list.
Minor league players, whose drug program is far more stringent, are tested and subject to suspension for positive results. A league spokesman said in the past half-decade, 12 suspensions for opioids have been levied from more than 78,000 tests. Minor league players are placed into a drug-treatment program after the first positive test and suspended following the second.