NBA To Reportedly Halt Drug Testing of Players During COVID-19 Pandemic

Professional basketball is on a break, and so, it appears, is its drug testing policy.
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The National Basketball Association, like pretty much all of the sporting world, is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. And that apparently means the league’s drug testing policy is on break, too.

According to a report from Yahoo Sports earlier this week, the NBA and the union representing players have reached an agreement that will halt random drug testing while the league is on hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The league suspended play a week ago after Rudy Gobert, an all-star center for the Utah Jazz, tested positive for the virus. Since then, several other NBA players have also tested positive. 

Players are normally subjected to several random drug tests during the season and in the offseason; if they test positive for banned substances, such as marijuana or performance enhancing drugs, they are subject to suspensions. According to Yahoo, which cited league sources in its report, the agreement is temporary.

The drug testing policy is codified in the current collective bargaining agreement between team owners and players; that agreement is slated to run until 2024. When it expires, the drug testing policy is almost certain to face significant changes, given what other professional sports leagues have done on that front as of late. The NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement, which was announced earlier this month, eliminates suspensions for players who test positive for marijuana, and raises the threshold for positive pot tests from 35 to 150 nanograms of THC. The agreement also restricts the drug testing period to the first two weeks of training camp.

Professional Sports and Pot

The NFL followed the lead of Major League Baseball, which removed marijuana from its list of banned substances last year.

MLB unveiled the new policy in December, a little more than five months after the Los Angeles Angels’ Tyler Skaggs was found dead in a hotel room in Dallas. Skaggs, who was only 27, died after choking on his own vomit, and was found by an examiner to have alcohol and two opioid-based painkillers, fentanyl and oxycodone, in his system.

Under the new policy, agreed upon by MLB owners and the players union, players will be tested for opioids and cocaine, while marijuana will essentially be treated the same as alcohol.

However, last month, MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem warned players that, despite the reclassification, may still take disciplinary action against players who run afoul of marijuana laws. Halem handed down other warnings — including one that effectively rules out a clubhouse toke during the seventh inning stretch.

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