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Players beginning to ask for more transparency regarding therapeutic use exemptions

MLB players such as Adrian Gonzalez have wondered aloud about who is allowed to take what TUE medication and why. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Therapeutic use exemptions -- known to players as TUEs -- are given to players taking physician-approved substances otherwise banned under baseball's drug-testing system.

TUEs are also the subject of a lot of unhappy conjecture and gossip in clubhouses across Major League Baseball, with players sharing theories about who among their peers are allowed a TUE, what substances they are taking -- and how much the drugs enhance their performance.

Adrian Gonzalez is among many players who have raised the topic with ESPN the past couple of years, but the Dodgers first baseman is the first willing to speak on the record. "I feel like TUEs should be [a matter of] public record," Gonzalez said Wednesday, sitting at his locker. "Not because they shouldn't be allowed, but because we should all know the reasons why [players] are taking what they're taking -- and are allowed to take."

Gonzalez believes this should happen for the sake of transparency. "The whole system is in place to make it an even playing field," said Gonzalez. "I know I don't have a TUE. I would want to know who has one, for what reasons, and if those reasons are justified."

Over the past year, other players and uniformed personnel have brought up the issue in conversation with this reporter, as Gonzalez did. "I think most players I've talked to feel the same way about it," he said. "You just want there to be the same trust" about how the TUEs are handled.

The players' speculation about PED use in the sport has seemingly grown in recent years, fueled partly by what they don't know about the TUEs. Some players wonder privately about whether peers are being provided an advantage that the vast majority of players are not permitted.

According to Major League Baseball's latest annual release about the sport's drug-testing program, there were 113 TUEs granted last season, and of those, 111 were related to the treatment of attention deficit disorder, one for gynecomastia, and one for olecranon stress fracture/hypercalciuria. In 2014, 112 TUEs were granted for ADD, one for hypogonadism.

Some players are skeptical about the number of players given TUEs for ADD. "It's just another way to get greenies," said one longtime position player. "Players know how to answer the questions in order to get that TUE."

The question of whether or not more information about the TUEs is released -- who is allowed to take what medication and why -- is controlled by the players and the Major League Baseball Players Association. When the initial testing began, for example, the union would not agree to allow MLB to release more information about failed PED tests other than to say that a player had violated the policy. After busted players began offering vague public explanations, MLB pushed to reveal the precise substance that the player had used, and the union changed and went along with that.

In order to reveal the details of the TUEs, questions of privacy would eventually arise, because there presumably would be some players who wouldn't want to reveal their protected medical information.

But in an industry in which physical performance counts for everything, more and more players -- union brethren -- want to know what Gonzalez wants to know: Who is allowed to take pharmaceuticals, and why?