Whether it is the rock star mentality of living life on the road and bringing in a ton of cash, or the onset of chronic pain and the pressures to hide it, Major League Baseball players have a pathway to scoring drugs.
The recent death of Tyler Skaggs, a 27-year-old Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher, is bringing the opioid epidemic discussion to the forefront of conversations again, as it should. His tragic death was found to be caused by aspirating – choking on one’s own vomit – due to a lethal mixture of Oxycodone, Fentanyl and Alcohol.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more powerful than that of heroin, and has also claimed the lives of musicians Prince and Tom Petty. In Prince’s case, it was reported by authorities he likely wasn’t aware the pills he was taking were laced with fentanyl since they were disguised as generic versions of Vicodin.
Could this be what happened to Skaggs?
Since he was in Texas when he died, it begs the question of how these drugs were acquired. If it happened on the road – then, how and from whom?
The Skaggs family is determined to find this out and they’ve since hired renowned attorney, Rusty Hardin, to proceed with investigations after finding out his cause of death.
“We are heartbroken to learn that the passing of our beloved Tyler was the result of a combination of dangerous drugs and alcohol,” the family wrote in their released statement. “We were shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels.”
If this accusation is found to be true, Major League Baseball and the Angels carry some of this liability. More importantly, if Skaggs had a long history with these drugs, were his teammates aware of it?
Andy Martino, an investigative reporter who claims to have spent nine years in Major League clubhouses, writes, “The whispers about players’ illegal drug use were rampant, although drowned out in public by the debate over steroids.”
Many assume the league routinely tests its players for recreational drug use but that is inaccurate, Martino writes. MLB has a Joint Drug Agreement that bans “drugs of abuse” which includes opiates, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine, but doesn’t test the players for them without “reasonable cause.”
Random drug testing seems to be the only solution in quantifying the MLB’s drug abuse problem but now because of Skaggs’ death, the Players Association is now discussing more widespread opioid testing.
“For several reasons, including the tragic loss of a member of our fraternity and other developments happening in the country as a whole,” said union head Tony Clark, “it is appropriate and important to re-examine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention.”
In the past, there seems to have been more focus on the players using performance enhancing drugs, or steroids, but Martino reports on HuffPost ballplayers tend to be more at risk for developing addictions to “drugs of abuse” due to the pressure. He writes, “many players are an injury or slump away from losing their jobs, and often worn down by the physical grind of a 162-game schedule.”
Could the reasons for substance abuse be because MLB players have easy access to drugs and simply need some release, or are they masking the incessant pain which lingers from suffering injury after injury due to the high physical demands of the sport?