Major League Baseball Calls Anderson to the Big Leagues

Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, director of sports medicine and clinical director for research in the Neag School of Education Human Performance Laboratory. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, director of sports medicine and clinical director for research in the Neag School of Education Human Performance Laboratory. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Jeffrey Anderson, the physician responsible for the health and safety of the 650 student-athletes who represent UConn in 24 sports, has been named the new independent administrator of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association.

In his new role Anderson will administer testing requirements, monitor collection procedures and testing protocols, and audit test results for major league players. He will also administer the process of the Therapeutic Use Exemption, which permits athletes to take a prohibited medication. In addition, Anderson will prepare and release an annual public report on the program’s findings.

The appointment of Anderson follows the announcement in early June by MLB and the Players Association of several revisions to their Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, including adding testing for human-growth hormone, increasing the number of random tests of players during the season and off-season, and strengthening protocols for addressing drug abuse by players. Since baseball introduced its random drug testing policy in 2004, strengthening its ban on controlled substances in place since 1991, 66 active major league players have been suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to Wikipedia.

Anderson will continue his responsibilities in Storrs as director of sports medicine at UConn and acting director of medical services within Student Health Services. He has served as an assistant clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Connecticut’s Health Center since 1996, and medical director for research in the Department of Kinesiology’s Human Performance Laboratory in the Neag School of Education since 2005. Anderson serves as chair of the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports. The University of Michigan Medical School graduate is board-certified in family medicine, with an added qualification in sports medicine.

While Anderson’s responsibilities will be separate from his role at UConn, it is the second time a major sports league has looked to a member of the faculty in UConn’s top-ranked Department of Kinesiology for their expertise. The department is home to the Korey Stringer Institute, which was established by the National Football League to provide information, resources, assistance, and advocacy for the prevention of sudden death in sport, especially as it relates to exertional heat stroke. The chief operating officer of the Institute is Douglas Casa ’97 Ph.D., professor and director of athletic training in the Department of Kinesiology and a nationally-known expert on heat stroke.

“The health of athletes and concern for their safety and prevention of injury continue to be increasingly important throughout all sports,” said Pat Courtney, spokesman for MLB. “Dr. Anderson’s appointment was a joint decision made by us and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The process included lengthy review of candidate resumes, multiple interviews, and discussions with anti-doping experts.”

Carl Maresh, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and head of the kinesiology department, says, “This is a great opportunity for Jeff. I think it not only speaks well for his skill as a clinician and an educator, but to the reputation he has made as a researcher as part of his work as medical director of the Human Performance Laboratory. Our department can claim some of the best faculty in the United States with expertise in the strength and conditioning, and health and safety, of athletes. We are extremely fortunate to have Jeff Anderson as a highly dedicated member of our research team.”

Anderson says during his discussions with MLB and the Players Association the independent role of the position in the testing of athletes was highlighted.

“In the interview process I went through, they hit me with terrific questions – a lot about my independence and objectivity, because it’s very important that I maintain my objectivity in the job,” he says. “It’s not just a symbolic position that they created so they have somebody there. Where I would ultimately come in is if there is an adverse result when it comes in from the testing lab. I’m responsible for determining if it’s a true positive and then reporting to the Commissioner’s office and Players Association simultaneously.”

Anderson, whose published research has included work in the area of the effects of drugs on athletic performance, says while there is no evidence more athletes are using performance-enhancing drugs, the attention on those cases that become the focus of widespread media coverage and legal action, such as former pitcher Roger Clemens, makes it seem so.

“I know more people are being caught because more testing is occurring,” he says. “Like anything else, it’s being talked about so it’s getting attention. We have 8,000 media outlets that have to fill 24 hours of sports talk. They need things to talk about.

“Basically the thrust of any good testing program is that it tries to do the right thing,” he adds. “You don’t want to punish people who are innocent, but yet you don’t want people to participate in activities that harm themselves, harm their sport, and harm people who aspire to be in that sport. [Testing plays] a really important role in both the health of the athlete and the integrity of the sports.”

Anderson says that while his work with Major League Baseball is not directly related to his work at UConn, the experience will benefit the student athletes whose health and safety he oversees.

“It helps round me out as a physician taking care of them” he says. “I don’t know how many of the kids will know. It does make me better able to give them good advice based on further experience and things that I’ve seen.”