Major League Baseball and the MLB Players' Association are expected to discuss expanding the league's drug testing program to include screening for opioids, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
This comes one week after the autopsy results of former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died suddenly in July, revealed that the opioids fentanyl and oxycodone were in his system at the time of his death.
"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," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement to Shaikin.
Talks are currently in the preliminary stages, but both MLB and the union expect they'll increase over the coming weeks and into the offseason, sources told ESPN's Jeff Passan.
As part of the ongoing discussions, the sides have reportedly exchanged several proposals with regard to drug testing, including potentially eliminating all tests for marijuana, according to Passan. Marijuana is currently classified by MLB as a "drug of abuse" alongside the likes of opioids and cocaine.
Opioids, including fentanyl and oxycodone, are also treated as "drugs of abuse" by MLB. This means the league does not test its players for these drugs on a regular basis unless it's required as part of a drug treatment program.
Players in the affiliated minor leagues not on 40-man rosters are currently subject to random opioid testing. Minor leaguers who test positive for opioids (or another drug of abuse) are referred to a treatment program; a second positive results in a suspension, according to Shaikin.
MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem told Shaikin there have been just 10 positive opioid tests in the minors out of 75,000 conducted during the last five years.
"None of our doctors prescribe opioids, other than for short-term use in connection with surgery," Halem said.
"We have not received from our medical community any information that would lead us to believe opioids are a widespread issue in baseball."
Skaggs was discovered dead in his Texas hotel room hours before an Angels game on July 1. The Tarrant County medical examiner found he had 3.8 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl in his system and a blood-alcohol level of 0.122%.
In a statement after the toxicology report was released, Skaggs' family alluded to an unnamed Angels employee possibly playing a role in his death. The family has hired an attorney to investigate and MLB announced that its own investigative unit is looking into the matter.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that fentanyl and its opioid relatives were responsible for over 31,000 deaths in the past year, according to the Times' Kate Linthicum.