It was in 2005 that Major League Baseball made the decision to ban amphetamines, starting with the 2006 season. The A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder) and A.D.H.D. (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) medicines, Ritalin and Adderall are considered stimulants. So, starting with the 2006-2007 season, these drugs were banned substances and players could only take the medicine if they received a T.U.E. (therapeutic use exemption) from MLB (Major League Baseball).
It wasn't until January of 2008, during the course of George Mitchell's investigation into steroid use in baseball, that MLB reluctantly released to Congress the number of players who received a T.U.E. to take Ritalin and/or Adderall. The number of players approved to take A.D.D. medicines jumped dramatically from 2006 to 2007, from 28 to 103. Such a big jump immediately stood out to members of Congress and reporters covering the story and there were a handful of stories about the issue in The New York Times, on ESPN.com and in Newsweek. And immediately a few sports columnists began to speculate that some players permitted to use Ritalin did not have A.D.D. and had found a way to get around the amphetamine ban. But the issue went unnoticed by many sports fans.
Ritalin and Adderall can help children with A.D.D. stay calm and focus better. But for anyone without A.D.D. or A.D.H.D., it's like taking speed and gives them quicker reflexes and longer-lasting energy. They're clearly performance enhancing drugs. Until now, news stories and sports columnists had only speculated that some players were faking it to take the drugs, but News4 Investigates spoke with a St. Louis doctor who says he knows some players are faking it. Dr. David Ohlms is the medical director of the chemical dependency unit at Centre Point Hospital, an addictionologist and a doctor with many years of treating professional athletes for substance abuse. He told News4 Investigates that he has seen two baseball players, a former Cardinals player and another who dr. Ohlms says never played for the Cardinals, who sought help after abusing A.D.D. medicines to enhance their on-field performance. In fact, one of them told Dr. Ohlms how he prepared himself before seeing his own doctor, to be able to convince the physician that he had A.D.H.D. and to get a prescription for Ritalin.
When we began working on this story, we contacted MLB to ask them for the numbers that had been given to Congress so we could be sure we had the accurate number of players to receive a T.U.E. They refuse and told us to get the numbers from Congress. Clearly it's a subject that's very sensitive to Major League Baseball, which refused to make someone available for us to interview. All we got from MLB was this statement:
"Since 2006, the joint drug agreement between MLB owners and players has required all therapeutic use exemptions to be approved by the Independent Program Administrator ("IPA"). The IPA, a licensed physician, is directed to approve such exemptions only if based upon a valid, medically appropriate prescription from a duly licensed physician. The IPA carefully scrutinizes all applications for exemptions to ensure compliance with our agreement."
Based on the patients that Dr. Ohlms has seen, MLB's system is not foolproof and there are still players finding a way to cheat, even with the ban on steroids and amphetamines.