Tyler Skaggs had an excellent start to his baseball career until it was cut short by an overdose from a combination of opioids and alcohol on July 1.
Since the death of the 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels pitcher, the Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association (MLBPA) have added oxycodone and cocaine to the league’s Joint Drug Program and removed marijuana.
“In agreeing to these modifications to the Program, MLB and the MLBPA continue to favor a treatment-based approach to Drugs of Abuse, with a particular emphasis on protecting Players from lethal and addictive substances, and providing effective and confidential care and support to Players who need it,” reports the MLB.
However, the alteration, which is in effect for 2020 Spring Training comes one life to late, with Skaggs now remembered for his lethal overdose rather than his development on the mound.
“Players are overwhelmingly in favor of expanding our drug-testing regimen to include opioids, and want to take a leadership role in helping to resolve this national epidemic,” Tony Clark, Executive Director of the MLBPA, said.
The MLB reports cannabis-related conduct will hold the same penalty as alcohol-related behavior based on the MLB and MLBPA Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct.
The program provides for mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids.
In one of Skaggs’ last post-game interviews, he discussed not giving up a hit until the fifth inning.
“I think the fourth and fifth kind of got away from me a little bit, but the team picked me up,” he said.
Two days after Skagg’s death, Angels manager Brad Ausmus admitted there was an “urgency” to win their first game back in honor of the fallen pitcher.
“It’s been a rough 24 hours and we haven’t had a lot to smile about so a win would give us something,” Ausmus said. “Like I said, I felt like we had to win this game; that’s why I went to the guys I went to even though it was a five run lead.”
While the amended MLB drug policy comes to late for the Skaggs and Angels’ families, the shift the testing policy toward drugs of abuse and away from marijuana can potentially prevent such a tragedy from happening again.