Berkman, Oswalt support blood testing
Duo has nothing to hide, doesn't think it invades privacy
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The ongoing controversy surrounding performance enhancing drugs clearly isn't going to go away anytime soon, and as the saga continues, more and more players are speaking out about drug testing.
Several prominent players have gone on the record supporting blood testing in recent weeks and months, and the general consensus appears to be that players would have no problem giving a blood sample if it could be reliably tested for traces of human growth hormone.
Count Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, two of the more well-known Astros, as full supporters of blood testing. Berkman said as much during an interview with MLB.com in January, and he and Oswalt both repeated that stance after a recent workout at Osceola County Stadium.
"Yes, I would [submit a blood sample]," Oswalt said. "If you don't have anything to hide, you'll take any kind of test."
In the past, union leaders have cited the lack of a reliable test and invasion-of-privacy concerns as reasons why it has resisted agreeing to blood testing. Interviewed separately, Oswalt and Berkman wondered how blood testing could be considered an invasion of privacy, given what they have to go through to give a urine sample.
In a nutshell, the test administrator is present, and watching, while the player is submitting his sample. Oswalt said he would rather give blood than have someone watch him urinate.
"If that's not an invasion of privacy, what is?" he said.
"And stage fright's a real deal," he said. "If you can't go in front of somebody ... you just mentally lock up. I'd rather stick my arm out and they can take blood out of me all day long."
Players Association leader Don Fehr recently told reporters at the Baltimore Orioles' Spring Training site that the union would consider allowing for blood testing, although Fehr pointed out that to his knowledge, there is no efficient test that can detect HGH.
Should a valid test emerge, based on the comments of some of the game's biggest stars, it's unlikely players would resist.
So why the delay?
"I think the union looks at it like, 'This is something that goes in the collective bargaining agreement and we don't mind changing it,'" Berkman said. "But in order to change it, it's going to have to be bargained. It's going to have to be negotiated. It can't just be unilaterally changed.
"I think the union feels like if you start doing things like that, then you open the door to other things where [clubs] might make changes without even negotiating with the players union. It's not that the union doesn't want to appease the public when it comes to the perceived drug problem in baseball. I think they look at it like, 'Look, this is part of our agreement and if you want to change it, that's fine, but let's negotiate it.'"
Berkman also suspects most players aren't putting pressure on the union leaders yet, partially because players tend to "be comfortable with the status quo."
"For a guy like myself, I think it would be great if we had blood testing, but if we don't, I'm not going to raise a stink about it," Berkman said. "I really don't care. I don't have anything to hide and whatever they want to do is fine with me."
That said, Berkman would gladly submit blood tomorrow if it means not having to never again talk about performance enhancing drugs.
"I'd give a blood sample on a monthly basis, just to get people off our backs," Berkman said. "And if players don't want to do that, they have something to hide."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.