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Professional Sports Leagues Steroid Policies

Posted by Neil on November 18, 2011

This post is designed to be a definitive, comprehensive reference regarding the performance-enhancing drug policies in place for various North American sports leagues/associations. The information contained in this report was compiled by Greg Spira and edited by Neil Paine and Sean Forman.

Send us an e-mail if you know of a policy or a suspended athlete not listed on this page, and we'll add it to the site.

Baseball - MLB

Football - NFL

Basketball - NBA & WNBA

  • How often do they test? The NBA tests every player at random between 0-4 times per year (0-3 times for WNBA players). Tests only occur at practices and games; none are conducted during the offseason.
  • How many athletes get tested? Every player is eligible, though not all will be tested in a given season. Rookies have a higher probability (and frequency) of testing than veterans.
  • What kinds of tests do they run? Urine tests only.
  • What do they test for? Steroids, related hormones, stimulants, masking agents, diuretics, cocaine, opiates, PCP, LSD, and marijuana.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? A player's first positive test for steroids, stimulants, masking agents, diuretics, cocaine, opiates, PCP, or LSD results in a 10-game suspension without pay. A second positive test results in a 25-game unpaid suspension. A third positive test results in an unpaid suspension of 1 season. A fourth positive test results in a minimum two-year suspension from any association with the NBA.
  • A DUI conviction or a player's first positive test for marijuana results in mandatory entrance into the league's Substance Abuse Program. A second offense results in a $25,000 fine. A third offense results in a 5-game suspension. A fourth offense results in a 10-game suspension. Each subsequent offense results in a suspension 5 games longer than the last (i.e., 15 games for a 5th offense, 20 for a 6th, etc.).
  • Which athletes have been suspended under this performance-enhancing drug policy? Rodney Buford (5 games in 2002), Maurice Taylor (10 games in 2003), Chris Webber (8 games in 2004), Clifford Robinson (5 games in 2006), Lindsey Hunter (10 games in 2007), Rashard Lewis (10 games in 2009), Darius Miles (10 games in 2008), Chris Andersen (banned in 2006; was allowed to return in 2 years, the usual length of a "permanent ban" in these sports). Because of league rules, it is impossible to know which type of violation players were suspended for, but Andersen's problem was reputed to be hard drugs, while Hunter and Miles were reportedly suspended because they used a diet pill similar to amphetamines (but not something one would take in their stead). Lewis tested positive for an elevated testosterone level he claims was caused by an over-the-counter supplement that included a substance he did not realize was banned by the NBA. Webber, Robinson, & Taylor are believed to have been suspended for marijuana abuse.
  • Other notes:
  • Before 2005, the NBA's penalties for steroids were less than those for amphetamines, cocaine etc. (thought still more than for marijuana).

Hockey - NHL

  • How often do they test? The NHL tests every player at random between 0-3 times per year. Most tests are conducted during off-days. Tests only occur during the regular season, not during the playoffs or offseason.
  • How many athletes get tested? Every player is eligible, though not all will be tested in a given season.
  • What kinds of tests do they run? Urine tests only.
  • What do they test for? Steroids, related hormones, β2-adrenergic agonists, anti-estrogen agents, diuretics, oxygen-transfer enhancers (EPO, etc.), and gene doping.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? A player's first positive test results in a 20-game suspension without pay. A second positive test results in a 60-game suspension w/o pay. A third positive test results in a lifetime ban.
  • Which athletes have been suspended under this performance-enhancing drug policy? Mark Bell, Sean Hill; a number of others have been banned from international play after testing positive internationally, but this hasn't happened since the NHL started its own drug policy several years ago.
  • Other notes:
  • NHL players in international competition (i.e. the Olympics) get tested more frequently than those not competing internationally.

Auto Racing - NASCAR

  • How often do they test? Two samples are taken randomly from 8 -15 drivers and/or crew members during each Sprint Cup race week.
  • How many athletes get tested? Every driver is eligible. Random testing started in 2008; before, testing only occurred in suspicious situations.
  • What do they test for? Both performance-enhancing and recreational drugs. Basically, it's whatever NASCAR decides; no list of banned substances is is available.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? All positive tests result in "indefinite suspensions" -- again, the length is at NASCAR's discretion.
  • Which athletes have been suspended under this performance-enhancing drug policy? Jeremy Mayfield.

College Sports - NCAA

  • How often do they test? Tests are conducted once during the regular season, and again during the postseason. There are also occasional offseason tests of Division I and D-II athletes (Division I schools have 18 football players and 8 other athletes, mostly baseball, tested during each offseason).
  • How many athletes get tested? Every NCAA athlete (across all divisions) is subject to regular-season and postseason testing.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? An athlete's first positive test leads to a 1-year suspension. A second positive test leads to a permanent NCAA ban.
  • Other notes:
  • Testing is conducted by the National Center for Drug-Free Sport.

Professional Tennis - Men's & Women's

  • How often do they test? Tests are conducted at random during tournaments, and to a lesser extent when players are at home. Players who reach the semifinals of a tournament are automatically tested.
  • How many athletes get tested? Every player is eligible, though not all will be tested in a given year.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? One positive test results in two-year suspension. A second positive test results in a lifetime ban.
  • Other notes:
  • Testing is conducted by the International Tennis Federation.

Golf - PGA & LPGA Tours

  • How often do they test? Tests are conducted at random during tournaments; men's players are also tested out-of-competition at random.
  • How many athletes get tested? Every player is eligible, though not all will be tested in a given year.
  • What do they test for? Performance-enhancing drugs, and also beta blockers & marijuana because of their calming effects.
  • Which athletes have been suspended under this performance-enhancing drug policy? Doug Barron (suspended 1 year in 2009).
  • Other notes:
  • PGA Tour testing is conducted by the National Center for Drug-Free Sport.

Olympic Sports

  • How often do they test? Players are eligible for random, unannounced tests on a 24/7/365 basis, but the rate of testing depends on sport and athletic rank. 61 percent of tests are out-of-competition.
  • What kinds of tests do they run? Blood and urine tests.
  • Who tests, and what do they test for? Olympic athletes are tested by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which adheres to the WADA Code. Substances include steroids, related hormones, β2-agonists, anti-estrogen agents, diuretics, oxygen-transfer enhancers (EPO, etc.), chemical and physical manipulation, gene doping, stimulants, corticosteroids, and β-blockers.
  • What are the penalties for positive tests? The first positive test results in a 2-year ban. A 2nd positive test results in a lifetime ban.
  • Which athletes have been banned and/or stripped of medals under this performance-enhancing drug policy? Marion Jones, USA (5 medals, 2000 Summer Olympics); Ben Johnson, Canada (1 medal, 1988 Summer Olympics); LaShawn Merritt, USA (2 gold medals, 2008 Summer Olympics); Torri Edwards, USA; Andrew Saxton & Andrew Davies, GBR

Fighters - Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts

  • How often do they test? The Nevada Athletic Commission tests fighters at random times throughout the year.
  • Who tests, and what do they test for? Boxers and mixed martial arts fighters are tested based on the rules of the states in which they fight.

Summary:

League MLB NFL NBA NHL
Test frequency 2x per year At least 1x/year 0-4x/year 0-3x/year
Every player tested? No Yes No No
Test type Urine only Urine only Urine only Urine only
Steroids/PEDs banned? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Masking agents banned? Yes Yes Yes Probably
Stimulants banned? Yes Yes Yes No
Recreational drugs banned? No No Yes No
PED-1st offense 31% of schedule 25% of schedule 12% of schedule 24% of schedule
2nd offense 62% of schedule 1 season 30% of schedule 73% of schedule
3rd offense Lifetime ban n/a 1 season Permanent ban
4th offense n/a n/a Permanent ban n/a
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