BC Premier League adopts PED testing

* The BC Premier League, under president Ted Hotzak (pictured) and in conjunction with Baseball BC, is adopting a Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) testing program for the betterment of the league. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors  2015 Canadian draft list

By Bob Elliott

LANGLEY, BC -- Showing once again why it is the best league in Canada for high school-aged players, the British Columbia Premier League has adopted a Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) testing program.

The Premier board of directors, under president Ted Hotzak in conjunction with Baseball BC, is implementing an education and prevention program for their affiliated programs.

“We hope that we don’t catch anyone,” said Hotzak at the BC coaches convention banquet. “There is so much pressure from parents, from other players and from players themselves to get a scholarship, we thought that some players might do anything to get one.”

So, the leagues, which gave you the likes of first-round draft choices LHP Adam Loewen (Delta, BC), LHP Jeff Francis (North Delta, BC) and INF Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) and LHP James Paxton (Ladner, BC) along with the top Canadian high schoolers drafted over the years like RHP Tom Robson (Ladner, BC), INF Kyle Orr (Victoria, BC), C Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) and RHP Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) will continue to maintain its place producing the best in Canada ... this time WADA approved.

“There was enough chatter at the end of last season that we thought some players had been using PEDs,” said Hotzak.

So, the Premier board took a proactive approach, implementing an online education program for all players. The web-based education package will explain use of these drugs to players and anyone else who wants to examine the information. All players are required to complete the program as well as the online questionnaire.

Then, random testing of players will begin. And then ... if there is a positive test:

First offence: a year’s worth of games (the league plays a 44-game schedule).

Second offence: Done.

Premier League coaches may also be tested.

Baseball BC will test players trying out for the Selects team starting this season.

If a player does not agree to be tested, he will be excluded from the Selects and all provincial high performance programs.

The use of PEDs in baseball could have its own section in the sports pages:

Alex Rodriguez banned for the season.

Ryan Braun was banned for 65 games.

Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Antonio Bastardo, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Jordany Valdespin, Fautino De Los Santos, Jordan Norberto, Cesar Puello, Fernando Martinez and Sergio Escalona were all suspended for 50 games, although Peralta’s punishment certainly would not deter use in some cases. The free-agent signed a four-year, $52 million US deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Clyde Inouye, the Sir John A. Macdonald of the Premier league, Hotzak, others on the board and respected coaches like Doug Mathieson, Dave Wallace, Bill Green and John Haar, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, have always insisted on “doing things the right way” in the Premier League.

“It’s a step in the right direction, the availability of PEDs among minors is concerning,” said Corey Eckstein, who runs the Abbotsford Cardinals. “The PBL is in a position to step up and enforce something that shouldn’t be tolerated at any level of sport. Players who wish to move forward at the national team level, NCAA, or pro level will encounter a test along the way. They might as well all start educating themselves now and ensure they know what is being put in their body.

“I believe all the bad publicity around PED’s within the majors has ultimately propelled the league to move forward in a timely fashion. I hope that educating the players and parents come before simply a test saying you passed or failed.”

The stance the league is taking is similar to testing at the annual Canada Cup where two players from each team are randomly tested. After the final game, each province’s chef de mission escorts two players to a clubhouse where a sample is taken.

Roughly 110 players and parents showed at the Premier League’s first information session .

“We had heard rumblings that there were going to be a lot of people vocal against testing,” said Hotzak. “No one stood to complain.”

One parent explained how there was a zero tolerance level in the household.

Why not at the ballpark?

Mathieson said he fully supported PED testing, saying “if anything, it serves as a deterrent and brings awareness to the issues.”

“We do not know if league players are using them,” said Mathieson, “but we do know they are available in many gyms across Canada.”

A Vancouver firm will collect samples, as it does for some workplaces, the class-A Vancouver Canadians and their opponents and the Vancouver Canucks and their opposition.

“Implementing such a program can only benefit our league,” said Russ Smithson of the White Rock Tritons. “Most coaches don’t believe that PED use is prevalent in the PBL, but with this system it definitely takes any second guessing out of the equation. The main reason it was implemented was more of a safeguard for our provincial and national teams.

“Having someone test positive would be a detriment to the league and the automatic one full season suspension takes any thoughts of using them out of their heads.

The Premier League web site discusses the new policy:

The reputation of our League and Baseball BC is at stake with this issue and if any of our players were to test positive at a showcase event or the Canada Cup, or at college, the impact on our league and the sport in BC would be very detrimental.

We would immediately lose the respect of college and pro scouting organizations, thus tarnishing our image and impacting both current and future League players.  

It would take several years for the negative image to be overcome and, because colleges have 100s of players from other competing organizations as well, they could simply move on to other sources of players.  

With this being said, it is becoming more apparent among players in the PBL that with easy access to PEDs, knowledge of the pros using them (despite getting caught, fined, suspended, and banned from playing), and/or other players on their team using them, then maybe they should consider using them to, to ensure that they can stay competitive. The use of PEDs is starting to creep into our League.  

The use of PEDs means that players don’t have a level playing field. In addition, it hurts legitimate athletes and challenges sports morals if some players are rewarded on the basis of using PEDs versus proper training and development. That certainly is not fair to the players that are doing things the right way.   

In addition, there appears to be a substantial amount of growing evidence that the use of PEDs does have a number of harmful side effects, some of which may not be evident for several years.

Smith said one issue from some parents was consent for testing minors.

“It is a reasonable question, however they understand the consequences of most importantly their child’s health,” said Smithson, “but also the reputation that would follow that player as they try to get recruited for colleges and pro baseball. One positive test could change a player’s future.”

Eckstien said that there is a wide range of feelings among coaches in the league and all have valid points that have been brought to the league’s attention.

“Parents are protective of their children so you can imagine there will be many questions and critics until the process is proven within our league,” said Eckstein. “If a parent truly cares about the health and development of their child, there should be no issues regarding these random tests.”

The league points out players will be undergoing the same testing that they receive at the Canada Cup, or down the road at college, university or pro ball.

Well done.