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MLB to expand blood testing for HGH

MLB to expand blood testing for HGH

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) Major League Baseball will test for human growth hormone throughout the regular season and increase efforts to detect abnormal levels of testosterone, a decision the NFL used to pressure its players.

Baseball players were subject to blood testing for HGH during spring training last year, and Thursday's agreement between management and the Major League Baseball Players Association expands that throughout the season. Those are in addition to urine tests for other performance-enhancing drugs.

Under the changes to baseball's drug agreement, the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Laval, Quebec, will keep records of each player, including his baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and will conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) tests of any urine specimens that ``vary materially.''

``This is a proud and a great day for baseball,'' commissioner Bud Selig said following two days of owners' meetings. ``We'll continue to be a leader in this field and do what we have to do.''

The announcement came one day after steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa failed to gain election to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

Commenting on the timing, Selig noted the drug program changes had long been in the works ``but it wasn't too bad, was it?''

Selig reflected on how far baseball had come on performance enhancing drug issues.

``This is remarkable when you think of where we were 10, 12, 15 years ago and where we are today,'' he said. ``Nobody could have dreamed it.''

Baseball began random drug testing in 2003, testing with penalties the following year and suspensions for first offenders in 2005. Initial penalties were lengthened from 10 days to 50 games in 2006, when illegal amphetamines were banned. The number of tests has gradually increased over the past decade.

Selig called the latest change a ``yet another indication how far this sport has come.''

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said each player will be tested at least once.

``Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair,'' union head Michael Weiner said in a statement. ``I believe these changes firmly support the players' desires while protecting their legal rights.''

Selig praised the cooperation of the players association, once a staunch opponent of drug testing, in agreeing to the expansion.

``Michael Weiner and the union deserve credit,'' Selig said. ``Way back when they were having a lot of problems I didn't give them credit, but they do.''

Christiane Ayotte, director of the Canadian laboratory, said that the addition of random blood testing and a ``longitudinal profiling program makes baseball's program second to none in detecting and deterring the use of synthetic HGH and testosterone.''

She said the program compares favorably with any program conducted by WADA.

HGH testing remains a contentious issue in the National Football League. At a hearing last month, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused the NFL players' union of trying to back out of HGH testing.

``Other professional sports leagues, including the National Football League, must also implement their own robust testing regimes,'' Cummings and committee chairman Darrel Issa said in a statement Thursday. ``Major League Baseball's announcement increases the pressure on the NFL and its players to deliver on pledges to conduct HGH testing made in their collective bargaining agreement that was signed two years ago.''

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday ``we hope the MLB players' union will inspire the NFLPA to stop its stalling tactics and fulfill its commitment to begin testing for HGH. If the NFLPA stands for player health and safety, it should follow the lead of the MLB players' union and end the delay.''

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah says the union is not backing out of anything but was looking to resolve scientific issues surrounding the tests. HGH testing is part of the 10-year labor agreement reached in 2011 but protocols must be agreed to by both sides.

``If the league had held up their commitment to population study, we could have been first,'' Atallah said.

At the time of last month's congressional hearing, NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch called the union's insistence on a population study to determine whether current HGH tests are appropriate a delay tactic that threatened that league's leadership in drug testing matters.

``Major League Baseball and the players' union have moved a long way from the inadequate policies that were in place when Congress first addressed ballplayers' use of steroids.'' said Henry Waxman, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

NOTES: Owners approved the transfer of control of the Cleveland Indians to Paul Dolan, son of owner Larry Dolan. Paul Dolan is the team's chief executive officer.

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the better team for large stretches of Game 5, but they ultimately weren't good enough. The Washington Capitals defended home ice for the first time this series and escaped with a 4-3 overtime win to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Blue Jackets to the brink.

Here's how Washington won Game 5.

A fluke bounce off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s back

Much was made coming into Game 5 of the fact that the road team had won every game to this point in the series. After winning two straight, it was imperative that for the Caps to come in and take advantage of the home crowd. But Columbus was the better team to start and scored a shorthanded tally for the game’s first goal. There was not much to like about the start…until a fluke bounce tied the game at one. Nicklas Backstrom had the puck behind the goal line and tried to feed it in front. Bobrovsky stuck his stick out to block the pass, but the puck had so much spin on it, it bounced up and off the netminder’s back into the net. A bad start ended up not costing Washington as the score was tied at 1 after the first.

The penalty kill

In the first two games of the series, the Caps gave up four power play goals on eight opportunities. Since then, Washington's PK has been lights out. The Caps gave up five power plays to Columbus in a penalty-filled contest, but killed off all five of them. Washington has not allowed a power play goal since Game 2, killing off 13 straight opportunities in the process.

A critical save by Braden Holtby

The Caps looked like they were out of gas in the third period. They held a 3-2 lead at the start, but yielded the game-tying goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand just 2:30 in and had to survive just to reach overtime. They were outshot 16-1 during that period. Luckily for them, Holtby was on point. All 15 saves Holtby made that period were critical, but none was better than highway robbery he committed on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Considering how gassed the Caps looked that period, that goal would have been tough to come back from.

Nicklas Backstrom

There was no question who the player of the game was in this one. Backstrom scored the Caps' first goal off the back of Bobrovsky, then deflected in the overtime winner for his second goal of the game. But it goes beyond what he did on the ice. After the game, Barry Trotz said some of the team leaders stepped up in the locker room in between the third period and overtime. He would not name names, but did confirm Backstrom was one of those who spoke out.

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