Cubs OK with new HGH testing policy

MESA, Ariz. -- As MLB implements its new policy to use blood tests for HGH testing, many Chicago Cubs players adopted a "whatever it takes" attitude.

For the first time in league history players will be forced to give blood at random times during the season -- including spring training.

“It was pretty quick," outfielder Scott Hairston said on Thursday before practice. “Lasted like 3 minutes."

Previously, testing consisted of urine tests, but that wasn't sufficient to detect human growth hormones. Players will now be subject to random unannounced blood tests, and baseline testosterone readings will be taken for all players to make it easier to detect the use of synthetic testosterone. Players who test positive for a first time face a 50-game suspension.

“There's always going to be ways of going around what's being tested," infielder Brent Lillibridge said. “But we have to do what we can. It's been changing. I don't think I would have much of a career without testing starting when I was drafted."

Infielder Darwin Barney says most players are in favor of the testing but some wondered about the timing. Pregame tests might affect play.

“They took four vials from me but said I could do anything a half hour later," Barney explained. “We decided on postgame testing only, just to be sure."

It's still not a perfect system.

“It's so hard to detect," Barney said. "It washes out in like 24 hours. It's in and out of you."

So there will be ways around the rules -- especially just after being tested. But the arrow is pointing in the right direction, at least according to the players.

“I think it's the league's job to clean up the game and that it should be clean," outfielder Brett Jackson said. “I don't think players should have to point fingers. Hopefully they keep improving the system so we don't have anyone cheating their way through the game."

Hairston's dad, Jerry, played in the major leagues for 14 years. Scott says he and his dad have talked about the steroid era and the younger Hairston had only one choice when working his way into the game: do it clean. He says he's done that but knows other haven't.

“As a player I guess you had to spend more time in the weight room or adjust your game," he said. “If I can't make it in the game with what I have then I don't belong in the game."

Stewart added: “Since I have nothing to worry about it's not a big deal. It (testing) goes unnoticed to me."

Any player who puts on significant weight through muscle still gets a sideways look. Barney added about 10-15 pounds this offseason and got some ribbing from his teammates, but the subject of steroids is too serious to joke about.

“I'm bigger because of the kind of work I do," Barney said. “Its not one of those things they joke about in that way. For the most part it's a serious matter."

There's only thing Barney is concerned about when it comes to blood tests.

“I used to be scared of needles," he said. “You get used to it."