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Number of major leaguers on ADD drugs up again

December 1, 2009 |  3:21 pm

The number of major leaguers approved to take drugs for attention deficit disorder rose to 108 last season, up from 106 in the 2008 season and 103 in the 2007 season.

The significant use of ADD drugs, perceived as a way to skirt baseball's amphetamine ban, emerged as an issue in Congressional hearings after the release of the Mitchell Report. Baseball responded by toughening the requirements to obtain approval for ADD drugs, but the number of players authorized to use them has yet to decline.

The annual report on baseball's drug policy, released today by the commissioner's office, reveals that 108 players received a so-called therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for ADD drugs and another 11 tested positive for Adderall, a prominent ADD drug. Under the policy, players testing positive for stimulants the first time are not suspended.

In 2008, baseball granted 106 players a TUE for ADD drugs, with six players testing positive for Adderall.

Of 3,722 tests administered last year, one revealed "an adverse analytical finding (for a performance-enhancing drug) that resulted in discipline" -- specifically, a positive test for the steroid Nandrolone. The only two major leaguers suspended for performance-enhancing substances were San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Kelvin Pichardo -- and Dodgers star Manny Ramirez, whose suspension was described in the report as "one non-analytical positive."

After Ramirez tested positive for an unusually high level of testosterone, baseball officials uncovered a prescription in his name for a banned substance, HCG, most commonly used as a female fertility drug. Ramirez accepted the suspension based on the prescription for a banned drug, with no TUE to use it.

Although experts say men using HCG most often do so to replenish testosterone levels after a cycle of steroids, men can sometimes be prescribed HCG because of an abnormally low sperm count or a poor quality of sperm. A player with such a prescription could obtain a TUE, but Ramirez did not have one.

Today's report cited the six conditions for which a TUE was approved last season: 108 exemptions for attention deficit disorder, two for hypertension, two for hypogonadism and one each for narcolepsy, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-concussion syndrome. 

-- Bill Shaikin