According to two sources close to the league, Major League Baseball is continuing to process a handful of positive performance-enhancing drug tests, with one announcement expected to come at some point later this week. The soon-to-be-announced positive test is for the drug Turinabol, an anabolic steroid made popular by the East Germans during their years of Olympic domination in the 1970s.
The drug is a very outdated mode of doping, but until recently, testing methods lagged behind. Turinabol is typically processed quickly by the body in, and had previously been undetectable after as little as a few days. Advances in testing equipment and processes have allowed anti-doping agencies to detect trace metabolites of the steroid that stay in the body much longer.
“The window of detection has moved out to, typically, several weeks, and in some rare circumstances up to months after administration,” said Daniel Eichner, the president of the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory in Utah, which works with most major sports leagues.
So far this season, Chris Colabello of the Toronto Blue Jays and Daniel Stumpf of the Philadelphia Phillies have received 80-game bans for a positive test for Turinabol. Cody Stanley of the St. Louis Cardinals tested positive for the drug last September. Colabello was adamant that he did not knowingly ingest the substance, and Major League Baseball has not found any leads regarding why a decades-old, seemingly-easy-to-detect drug is making a comeback with big leaguers. There is a possibility that a supplement being taken by players contains traces of the drug. The idea has also been floated that players are just not aware of how advanced testing methods have become.
A supplement currently on the market and available to the general public, Alpha-4D, contains Turinabol, but no player who has tested positive for the drug has admitted to taking the supplement. Be that as it may, players are warned of the dangers of taking unapproved supplements. Another line of thought regarding the surge in Turinabol testing is that players were cycling off the drug approaching Spring Training, when all players are drug tested, without considering the longer period of detection. In the past, a player could have ceased using the steroid a week before reporting to camp and still test clean. That is no longer the case.
With several high-profile drug busts already this season, including 2015 NL batting champion Dee Gordon, and a few more coming down the pipe, Major League Baseball continues to deal with a PED image problem. Skepticism will remain, and clean players will remain angry every time news of another positive test breaks. Professional athletes have always, and will continue to, attempt to find a way to find an edge on their competition. As testing methods improve, the advantage will continue shifting back in the direction of the anti-doping efforts. Baseball may never fully win the war on PEDs, but winning individual battles is becoming easier.