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How Baseball Drug Testing Works

Baseball: Prohibited Substances

Baseball players are prohibited from taking any sort of muscle-building or performance-enhancing drug considered a controlled substance under federal law. That includes at least 70 different chemicals, most with complicated names that would be unrecognizable to anyone but a chemist. They range from steroids and precursors, such as the androstenedione that Mark McGwire took, to synthetic versions of substances that naturally occur in the human body, such as human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) [source:].

Additionally, players are banned from using 56 different stimulants -- most of which, again, are chemicals you've probably never heard of. One recognizable name that does jump out is ephedrine, the chemical in the once-popular supplement ephedra. The latter caused the death of Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler in 2004, and was banned from sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the following year [sources:,].

In addition to muscle-building steroids and illegal stimulants, players also are required to stay away from "drugs of abuse," which generally are the same ones considered controlled substances under federal drug laws, including the following [source:]:

  • Natural cannabinoids -- i.e. marijuana, hashish and any extract containing THC, the mind-altering chemical in those drugs.
  • Various forms of synthetic cannabinoids, including illicit drugs such as K2 and Spice.
  • Cocaine
  • LSD
  • Opiates such as oxycodone, heroin, codeine and morphine
  • MDMA, also known as Ecstasy
  • PCP, also known as angel dust
  • GBH, also known as liquid ecstasy, a drug that causes euphoria and disorientation.