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The Next Epidemic

 
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dodgerblue6



Joined: 10 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Tue 9/10/19 3:20 pm    Post subject: The Next Epidemic Reply with quote

From the L.A. Times:

"MLB and Players’ Union Expected to Discuss Testing for Opioids Following Tyler Skaggs’ Death"

By BILL SHAIKIN
SEP. 6, 2019

Major league players are not routinely tested for opioids. Now, one week after Tyler Skaggs’ autopsy revealed the Angels pitcher had fentanyl and oxycodone in his system when he died July 1, the Commissioner’s office and the players’ union are expected to discuss whether to expand the major league drug testing program to include random screenings for opioids.

“For several reasons, including the tragic loss of a member of our fraternity and other developments happening in the country as a whole, it is appropriate and important to reexamine all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention,” Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Assn., said in a statement Friday.

In the minor leagues, where players are not represented by the union, the commissioner’s office mandates testing for opioids. Of the 75,000 tests administered over the last five years, only 10 were positive for opioids, according to the league.

“We have not received from our medical community any information that would lead us to believe opioids are a widespread issue in baseball,” deputy Commissioner Dan Halem said.

However, Halem said, the increasing prevalence of opioid abuse in the general population could present an opportunity for the league and the union to work together toward protecting the welfare of players.

It is unclear at this point whether the league and union would consider suspending players that might test positive for opioids, referring them to a confidential testing program, or both. In the minor leagues, players are referred to treatment after a first positive test for a drug of abuse and suspended after a second.

No drug in modern history has killed more people in a single year than fentanyl, The Times reported last week. More than 31,000 people in the United States died last year after taking fentanyl or a similar substance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An Orange County man who called himself “oxygod” was sentenced last week to 17-1/2 years in prison for selling opioid pills laced with fentanyl. Authorities found nearly 100,000 phony oxycodone pills in the man’s apartment.

Under the current major league drug policy, oxycodone and fentanyl are considered “drugs of abuse,” and players are not tested for such drugs without reasonable cause, or unless part of a treatment program. Any minor leaguer testing positive for a drug of abuse could be subject to random testing throughout his major league career, Halem said.

In the major leagues, he said, club doctors, athletic trainers and other personnel are trained to identify and report signs and symptoms of potential abuse. Opioids are tightly regulated, as federally controlled substances that require a legitimate medical prescription and carry a significant risk of abuse.

“None of our doctors prescribe opioids, other than for short-term use in connection with surgery,” Halem said.

Although players can apply for a therapeutic use exemption, or TUE, to allow for the use of an otherwise banned substance, Halem said the league has not granted any exemptions for opioids.

“There are no TUEs for long-term use of controlled substances,” Halem said. “It’s all for pain management in connection with an invasive procedure for a short duration.”

According to Skaggs’ player page on the league website, he last underwent surgery in 2014.

In a statement following the release of the autopsy results, the Skaggs family said it was “shocked” to learn that “the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s death ... may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels.”

The family has hired famed Texas attorney Rusty Hardin. The Angels have retained a Texas lawyer as well, and the results of several investigations could determine whether the family files a wrongful-death lawsuit that could take years — and tens of millions of dollars, or more — to resolve.

Halem said the league is deferring its investigation until the conclusion of the police investigation, in the hope that law enforcement can share its findings and thus narrow the areas the league would need to probe.

“We have not been briefed by law enforcement at this point,” Halem said.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Mon 10/7/19 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a follow-up to this post from last month, here's more from the L.A. Times. Marijuana is also mentioned in the mix.

"MLB and Players’ Union Mull Testing for Opioids While Easing Marijuana Penalties"

By BILL SHAIKIN
OCT. 2, 2019 7:01 PM

NEW YORK — When healthy, Kyle Blanks could crush a baseball. In the final 32 games of 2009, his rookie season with the San Diego Padres, playing in a home field so cavernous it was known as Petco National Park, Blanks hit 10 home runs.

But he never hit that many home runs in a season again, his career deteriorated by a procession of injuries and surgeries to his elbow, leg and shoulder, and procedures on both feet. In 2017, as he finished his professional career in the minor leagues, the pain was so persistent that Blanks said he got relief from alcohol: a half-bottle of rum some days, a whole bottle on others.

It made no sense to him that he could use marijuana to ease his discomfort as a major leaguer because there was no testing, but not in the minors, where there was. And on one of his most agonizing days, he said, the discomfort in his heel was so excruciating that he popped an opioid so he could finish a game.

When Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs died in July, he had the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone as well as alcohol in his bloodstream, according to toxicology tests. Baseball does not test major league players for opioids, but after Skaggs’ death that policy is under review by the Commissioner’s office and players’ union.

The league would “absolutely” like to add opioid testing for next season, said Dan Halem, the league’s deputy commissioner. Tony Clark, the executive director of the players’ association, said the union plans to work with the league to assess “all of our drug protocols relating to education, treatment and prevention.”

The parties have discussed whether to loosen baseball’s restrictions on marijuana — not specifically as a trade-off for opioid testing, but as part of the annual review of the sport’s drug policy, according to three people familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment publicly on them.

The discussions reflect in part the national trend toward legalization of marijuana, even as it remains on the federal register of controlled substances. According to the Marijuana Policy Project, 11 states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, 33 states have done so for medicinal purposes, and 26 states have decriminalized marijuana.

The talks could determine whether major and minor leaguers would be allowed to use marijuana at all times, to recover from particular injuries, or for general pain management.

Fentanyl killed more than 31,000 people in the United States last year. Amid the national opioid crisis, the league and the union would like to learn whether marijuana might offer a reasonable and responsible option in pain management.

Representatives from owners and players are expected to solicit input from the medical community on the effects and effectiveness of marijuana — and of CBD, a substance derived from the cannabis plant that contains a tiny amount of THC, the psychoactive compound that produces the high among marijuana users. CBD can be used in creams, gels and gummies, and proponents say it can reduce pain without side effects.

Jon Coyles, MLB vice president of drug, health and safety programs, advised major and minor league players in a March 14 memo that CBD, like marijuana, was a banned substance. Coyles warned that players could test positive for marijuana by using a CBD product.

“Claims of CBD products being ‘THC free’ are false and misleading,” Coyles wrote. “We have seen multiple positive drug tests … in the past year for THC that appear to have resulted from the use of CBD products, despite the product labels.”

Under current policy, opioids and marijuana are classified as “drugs of abuse” and banned from the sport. However, major league players are not routinely tested for drugs of abuse, only for performance-enhancing drugs.

In the minor leagues, where the union does not represent players, testing is conducted for opioids and marijuana, among other drugs. A first positive test remains confidential, with players referred to counseling and treatment programs. Any subsequent positive test triggers a suspension.

Thirteen minor league players were suspended for marijuana this season, the league said, with multiple positive tests necessary for a suspension. Overall, about 80% of the positive tests for drugs of abuse were for marijuana. Also, about 80% of the suspensions for drugs of abuse were for marijuana. One of the suspensions was for opioids.

In the majors, opioid and marijuana testing is conducted only with reasonable cause, or as part of a treatment program.

Halem said the league does not believe it has an opioid problem. Players can obtain short-term doses from surgeons following operations, but team doctors are forbidden from prescribing or dispensing opioids. The league depends on a team’s medical staff and other trained employees to report suspicious behavior that could provide reasonable cause for testing.

“Controlled substances are difficult to regulate in a team environment, so we decided not to use them,” Halem said. “In terms of illicit use of opioids, we haven’t heard that much.”

Still, investigators have yet to say how they believe Skaggs acquired the opioids that killed him. The Drug Enforcement Agency is investigating. So is the police department in Southlake, Texas, the city where Skaggs died on an Angels road trip, and Rusty Hardin, the attorney retained by Skaggs’ family.

Halem said the league investigation is on hold.

“We are not going to do anything until law enforcement is done,” he said. “Whatever the facts are, the facts are. And then we’ll handle it appropriately.”

On Aug. 30, when autopsy results revealed that Skaggs choked to death with fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system, the Skaggs family issued a statement that said in part: “We were shocked to learn that [Skaggs’ death] may involve an employee of the Los Angeles Angels.”

The family has not publicly shared evidence to support that claim. Hardin said Wednesday the family remains concerned but investigators need to complete their work.

“We want to stay on the sidelines and not get in the way of any law enforcement investigation that might be going on,” he said, “and we are as anxious to find out what happened as anyone else.”

When pitcher Nick Adenhart died 10 years ago, killed by a drunk driver, the Angels mourned for the balance of the season, but they knew what had happened to their friend and teammate, and how and why.

The Angels are in the unsettling position of knowing what happened to Skaggs, but not how and why, and what investigators eventually determine could be announced in weeks or months, or even after the team has assembled anew next spring.

“Everyone, including our organization, wants answers,” Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said. “Our focus is on cooperating with the ongoing investigations that will help accomplish that.”

Blanks, now a partner in a company that sells CBD products, did not know Skaggs, but he could not help but wonder whether marijuana might have prevented him from taking opioids. Blanks did know that Skaggs had undergone surgery during his career, and because of that Blanks suspected that he had been exposed to opioids before the day he died.

“No different for me,” Blanks said. “I woke up every time.”
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Tue 10/8/19 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have often thought about that angle too, about weed being legal, but like alcohol, I would think there should be some limits on when it can be used. I would rather not pay money to see someone perform under that kind of influence.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Sat 10/12/19 9:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not that I wanted to hear this confirmed, but a rumor has been going on since shortly after Tyler's July 1 death, that an Angels clubhouse employee had supplied him regularly with oxycodone.

From the L.A. Times:

"Attorney for implicated Angels employee: Tyler Skaggs ‘an Addict Who Overdosed’ "

By MIKE DIGIOVANNA, STAFF WRITER
OCT. 12, 2019 3:01 PM

The attorney for an Angels employee who reportedly provided opioids to Tyler Skaggs described the pitcher as “an addict who overdosed.”

Eric Kay, who has worked for the team in media relations for 24 years, engaged Newport Beach criminal defense attorney Michael Molfetta nearly two months ago out of concern that he might be made a “scapegoat” in the investigation into the drug-related death of Skaggs.

On Saturday, ESPN reported that Kay told federal investigators he provided oxycodone to Skaggs and abused it with him for years.

Citing two people familiar with the investigation, ESPN also reported that Kay said two team officials were told about Skaggs’ drug use long before his death and that Kay gave U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents the names of five other players who he believed were using opiates while they were Angels. Tim Mead, Kay’s former supervisor with the Angels and now president of the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., is one of the employees implicated.

Mead told The Times on Saturday that Kay never mentioned to him that Skaggs might be an opioid user. “Eric and I conversed about a lot of things over the years,” Mead said. “Tyler and opioids were not one of them.”

The second employee who may have had knowledge of Skaggs’ opioid use, the Angels were told, was Tom Taylor, the club’s traveling secretary. Taylor denied it.

“Before Tyler’s death, Eric Kay never told me anything about Tyler or any player seeking narcotics, or about Eric providing narcotics to any player,” Taylor said in a statement to The Times.

John Carpino, president of the Angels, said in a statement: “We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics. The Angels maintain a strict zero-tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB Joint Drug Agreement. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler and fully cooperate with the authorities as they continue their investigation.”

Molfetta could not be reached Saturday, but in a September interview with The Times, he acknowledged that Kay, 44, had been linked to the case.

“I just know that attempts to blame any one person for another person’s addiction are extremely naïve,” Molfetta said. “I think any attempts to blame Eric Kay for what happened are shortsighted and misguided. When all the facts come out, I think that what happened is a tragedy. What happened is very sad on many levels. But to say it’s any one person’s fault is not right.”

Skaggs, 27, had the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone in his system along with alcohol when he was found dead in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room July 1 during an Angels road trip. The Skaggs family hired Houston criminal defense attorney Rusty Hardin to represent them. The Angels hired Fort Worth trial attorney John Cayce to represent them.

“The Skaggs family continues to mourn the loss of a beloved son, brother, husband and son-in-law,” Hardin said in a statement Saturday. “They greatly appreciate the work that law enforcement is doing, and are patiently awaiting the results of the investigation.”

Kay was on the team’s June 30 charter flight to Texas and stayed in the team’s Southlake hotel the night Skaggs died. He worked during the series in Texas on July 2-4 but took a leave of absence in mid-July. Though Kay has not reported to work since, Molfetta said he is still an Angels employee.

According to ESPN, Kay told investigators that he illegally obtained six oxycodone pills and gave three to Skaggs several days before the team left California for Texas. Skaggs texted Kay the day the team left seeking more oxycodone, a request Kay told investigators he was unable to fulfill.

Agents learned about the oxycodone transactions between Kay and Skaggs after reviewing text messages between the two, ESPN reported, citing sources. Kay also reportedly told investigators that Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him in the Texas hotel room but that Kay did not partake in the drugs with the player because he was on a medication that would have negated the effects.

A review of Venmo transactions showed payments between Skaggs and Kay, although for what is not clear. The latest payment reviewed by The Times was from April.

ESPN reported that Kay’s mother, Sandy, told the network’s “Outside the Lines” show that her son started abusing opioids a few years after his father died in 1998 and that Kay is currently in outpatient treatment for substance abuse. Kay could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Skaggs’ family members issued a statement after his death saying they were “shocked to learn that it may involve an employee of the Angels. We will not rest until we learn the truth about how Tyler came into possession of these narcotics, including who supplied them.”

Asked by The Times if his client supplied any of the illegal substances that Skaggs used, Molfetta said, “I can state unequivocally that anyone who blames Eric Kay for Tyler Skaggs’ death is incorrect. Trying to lay blame at any one person’s feet is not just morally wrong, it’s factually wrong.”

Major League Baseball launched an investigation into Skaggs’ death based on the family’s statement about an Angels employee perhaps being involved. MLB Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem told The Times in late September that the investigation was on hold until the DEA and Southlake police probes were completed.

“MLB was unaware of any of these allegations,” a league spokesman said in a statement Saturday. “MLB will fully cooperate with the government investigation and conduct its own investigation when the government investigation is completed.”

The league does not plan to accelerate its investigation, even with the allegation that other players might be identified as users.

Reports and information from the police and other first responders related to the incident have not been released. The Times and other news organizations have sought the material, but an attorney representing the City has asked the Texas attorney general for guidance on whether the records are exempt from disclosure laws. No decision has been made.

Opioids such as fentanyl and oxycodone can only be legally obtained and possessed with a medical prescription.

Attorneys have said that tens of millions of dollars could be at stake in a potential wrongful-death lawsuit if it can be proven a party besides Skaggs might be at least partially responsible for his death.

“The young man obviously had a problem and he paid a very high price for his problem, and sometimes that’s the way life works,” Molfetta said. “Sometimes you make a series of horrible decisions and you pay a very high price.”



Times staff writers Bill Shaikin and Nathan Fenno contributed to this report.
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forloveofthegame



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PostPosted: Sun 10/13/19 6:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Such an unfortunate situation.
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Tue 10/15/19 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eric Kay says people with "roles" in Skaggs' death must "take responsibility."
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dodgerblue6



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PostPosted: Fri 10/18/19 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From the L.A. Times:

"DEA Interviews Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill and Current Angels in Tyler Skaggs Probe"

By MIKE DIGIOVANNA, STAFF WRITER
OCT. 15, 2019 6:46 PM

Federal agents have interviewed at least six current and former Angels players as part of their investigation into the drug-related death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs, according to a person with knowledge of the interviews who is not authorized to speak publicly about them.

A representative for pitcher Trevor Cahill confirmed that his client was questioned by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Texas in September. Cahill pitched for the Angels in 2019 but is no longer under contract.

Pitchers Andrew Heaney, Noe Ramirez and Matt Harvey -- who was released by the team July 21 -- also were questioned, according to the person familiar with the investigation. The names of the other two players questioned are not known.

People familiar with the interviews said the players weren’t targeted for any specific reason or suspected of using opiates or implicated in any potential crime.

Federal agents, according to the sources, hoped the players might be able to shed light on whether the use of opiates was prevalent in the clubhouse, if they ever saw players using illegal narcotics on team flights and if they knew how Skaggs procured drugs.

“Trevor was friends with Tyler,” agent John Boggs said, referring to Cahill, “but all this other craziness that happened over the weekend was news to everybody.”

Skaggs, 27, had the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone in his system along with alcohol when he was found dead in his Southlake, Texas, hotel room July 1, the day after the team flew from Orange County to Texas to begin a series against the Rangers.

ESPN reported Saturday that Eric Kay, who has worked for the team in media relations for 24 years, told federal agents that he provided opioids to Skaggs and that he abused drugs with the pitcher for several years. Kay said he was in the Texas hotel room when Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him.

Kay, 45, is in outpatient treatment for his opioid addiction. His attorney acknowledged in a radio interview Tuesday that Kay opted to cooperate with DEA officials in hopes of a more lenient sentence if he is charged with a crime.

“I felt it was prudent to get ahead of this and to cooperate,” Newport Beach criminal defense attorney Michael Molfetta told AM 570. “In the federal system . . . you get deductions along the sentencing guidelines for early acceptance of responsibility and cooperation, so that’s what the strategy was from a legal perspective.”

Lance Williams, a retired special agent who worked in the Baltimore and Los Angeles DEA offices, said federal agents will scour phone records and text messages between Kay and Skaggs going back several years in an effort to uncover evidence.

Text messages and e-mails between team employees and other family members could also be part of the investigation, Williams said.

“They’re going to pull all the text messages to see if there are common numbers that jibe with the existing investigation, to see if a [team employee] might have texted someone in the front office to say Tyler may have a problem, to see who might have known what,” Williams said. “The lesson from this should be, in this day and age, nothing is going to stay hidden.”

Molfetta said he didn’t believe that Kay or the Angels could be criminally liable for the death, but tens of millions of dollars could be at stake in a potential wrongful-death lawsuit if attorneys can prove a party besides Skaggs might be at least partially responsible for his death.

Kay told federal investigators that he knew of five players who he believed used opiates while they were Angels and that two team officials — Tim Mead, the team’s former vice president of communications, and Tom Taylor, the team’s traveling secretary — were told about Skaggs’ drug use long before his death.

Mead and Taylor denied those claims, and the Angels issued a statement that said, “We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics.”

Under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement, any team employee who has evidence or reason to believe that a player has used, possessed or distributed any substance prohibited by MLB is obligated to inform the Commissioner’s office.

According to ESPN, federal agents learned about the oxycodone transactions between Kay and Skaggs after reviewing text messages between the two.

Molfetta said he has not been told whether Kay is a subject, witness or target of the investigation. Typically, the federal government is more likely to prosecute drug dealers than users.
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-Baseball Hall of Fame
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