Friday, March 7, 2008

Making sense of TUEs in the era of suspicion

Jeremy Sandler had a story in Monday's National Post on Jays pitching prospect David Purcey, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder in the off-season, and is now on medication to treat the condition. While the medication that he is using isn't explicitly stated, it is likely something along the lines of Adderall or Ritalin. These medications are both psychostimulants, and require a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) from the Commissioner's Office.

Purcey is not alone amongst Major Leaguers in being diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder. Since MLB expressly banned the use of amphetamines in 2006, the number of TUE's for ADD and ADHD medications grew from 28 to 103 in one season. This represents roughly 8% of players, which is about twice the rate in the general population.

Gary R. Gaffney, is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa wrote on the use of TUE's by baseball players on his Huffington Post blog. He noted that we shouldn't be concerned about the spike in the number of players receiving this exemption:
"Eight percent of MLB players treated for ADHD does not set off alarm bells in my book. The increase could be due to a better understanding of the rule, and to a higher number of players seeking a deserved TUE.

If the physicians prescribing the medications make accurate diagnosis, and provide a reasonable dose of medication, this does not represent a way to 'cheat within the rules'."

We know of people who live in the U.S. and who have gone "doctor shopping" in order to get prescriptions for Adderall. They say that the medication allows them to work with surgical focus on the tasks in front of them. From the way they describe it, we couldn't imagine a medication that would be more appropriate for a big league pitcher. (For instance, Derek Lowe is among those with a TUE that allows him to take Adderall.)

We realize that we're entering delicate territory, so we're going to tread as lightly as possible. We'll confess to sitting on this post for a few days, simply because we didn't want to post something reactionary and cast aspersions at Purcey. We realize that it is at least as likely as not that Purcey's disgnosis is legit and that we'd be a terrible person for even raising the issue.

But in an era where suspicion is out default setting, it's hard for us to invest in the story of Purcey as the guy who is overcoming his personal obstacles. We want to buy in, and we don't want to go down the road of making allegations.

Maybe we're wussing out. Maybe we're playing favorites with the home town player. Or maybe we're not so bold as to pretend that we know what we're talking about. We want to love this guy, but we don't have the luxury of shutting out the little voice that will say "hmmm" if Purcey turns it on this year, for whatever reason.

Along the same lines
We've just noticed this profile of Gregg Zaun by ESPN's Jeff Pearlman. (He's not our favorite writer at all, but it is apropos.)


Dustin Parkes said...

Good work!

Darren Priest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darren Priest said...

What a bunch of mealy-mouthed drivel!

Get thee to a pharmacy, I think you need a dose of Adderall too.

sager said...

Love Me, Hate Me and The Bad Guys Won! are must-reads for baseball fans who were born in the '70s. And Pearlman's a big Tim Raines fan!

t.u.g. said...

It's a topic to look into forsure. The figure of 8% of players using TUE's seems realistic to me.
Lot's of kids originally get into sports because they have too much energy for their parents to handle.
I wouldn't be surprised if there are higher instances of ADD among atheletes.

Joanna said...

why is Zaun's story of overcoming his demons tainted by being named in the Mitchell report? especially since the Mitchell report stuff is from the same era as the "gregg zaun's hangover provided by jack daniels" stuff.

Bryan said...

Great post. I used to take ADHD medications. At the same time, I seeked help from as they offer plenty of tips and guides. Ireally worked for me. Any opinions?

Dustin Parkes said...

I think that most mental illnesses are just demonic possession. The greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist.