The Daily Dive, a quick fifteen-minute podcast giving you “the news without the noise,” sits down with Axios sports editor Kendall Baker to break down a new debate in baseball: Adderall. Amphetamine use is nothing new, host Oscar Ramirez tells us; until they were banned in 2006, players would pass around “Greenies,” or Dexedrine, a drug that heightened awareness and reaction time. And steroid use was common, too, until mandatory testing was put in place in 2003. But now, there’s a new player in the field. In an op-ed for The Athletic, former Boston Red Sox player Lars Anderson said that taking Adderall before a game gave him intense focus and concentration, helping him win. But Adderall is prescribed to players for legitimate reasons, so it’s not like Major League Baseball could outlaw its use completely. How, then, can the industry monitor this?
In his op-ed, Lars recalls using Adderall at a game in Japan, saying “he had boundless amounts of easily controlled energy...just utterly in the moment, with a clear mission...it just helped him focus so much,” Oscar tells us. Kendall points out that focus is a hot commodity in baseball. “Baseball's a very monotonous sport, it's a grind of a season...It's a sport that requires a lot of attention, a lot of just staring at pitchers, at balls, and so players are going to do what they think's going to give them an advantage.” Oscar agrees: “There’s a lot of travel time, there’s a lot of stress on the body, fatigue that can set in, and something like this is...could really give them a leg up.” A “famous example,” Kendall says, is “The Orioles' first baseman, Chris Davis, had an Adderall prescription...he hits 53 home runs, had one of the best years in recent memory. The following year, didn't get his Adderall prescription renewed, and hit 24 home runs.” That’s just one person, and it’s important not to jump to conclusions, he says, but “that is interesting.”
But while steroid use can be fairly obvious – Kendall points to “huge muscles” and “sticking a needle through your butt” – amphetamine use isn’t so clear to the stadium. Or, unfortunately, to the tests. While the performance-enhancing drug (PED) testing players are required to undergo does test for Adderall, it’s difficult to pinpoint; it stays in urine for four days and only 46 hours in blood. And there’s the added problem that Adderall is a drug that some players do need in everyday life. So an outright ban isn’t a solution. One player with a prescription told Lars that MLB required him to take Adderall every day, "and he actually argued that that was bad,” Kendall tells us. “He had sleep issues, insomnia, all these things. So that was just another part of this debate.”
Learn more about the Adderall debate and what MLB can do about it, and hear from Politico reporter Gabby Orr about the Trump re-election campaign and Talking Tech podcast host Jefferson Graham about the dangers of binge-watching, on this episode of The Daily Dive.
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