Major League Baseball suffered a devastating loss in July with the unexpected passing of former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs. The 27-year-old was found dead in his hotel room on July 1 prior to the Angels’ series opener against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park.
An autopsy nearly two months later determined Skaggs died from a combination of opioids and alcohol in his system. Troubling details have since emerged that he allegedly purchased those drugs from Angels director of communications Eric Kay.
It prompted an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, to whom Kay admitted that he sold drugs to Skaggs over the years. He dropped another bombshell by revealing multiple Angels employees were aware of Skaggs’ addiction and went on to further speculate that five other players in the organization are currently using the narcotics.
MLB is now searching for answers themselves as they hope to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring in the future. Commissioner Rob Manfred recently revealed that there have been positive talks with the MLB Players Association in regards to the potential installment of opioid testing, via the Associated Press:
“The dialogue in this has been really positive with the players association, a lot of common ground on addressing the issue,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said Wednesday before Game 2 of the World Series. “We understand that our workforce is a microcosm of society. There’s a societal problem.”
As Manfred noted, opioids are an epidemic that extends well past baseball. While MLB has prioritized cracking down on performance-enhancement substances in recent years, drugs of abuse are not currently subject to testing.
This type of testing is only required for Minor League players not on 40-man rosters. Manfred hopes that an agreement can be reached with the MLBPA where it becomes mandatory across the sport.
With significant progress being made, opioid testing may soon be rolled out for all 30 organizations as early as this offseason. While potential ramifications for those that test positive have yet to be solidified, some believe Manfred will prioritize rehab treatment over suspension.