MLB endured a perfect storm of obstacles to its testing program over the holiday weekend — in part because it was the holiday weekend.
The Oakland A’s, Houston Astros and Washington Nationals at minimum did not receive results back from tests taken on Friday by Monday morning. Therefore the Astros and Nationals cancelled workouts Monday and the A’s delayed their workout to the evening at the earliest.
MLB’s safety and health protocols, which is conducted with joint oversight by the Players Association, called for on-field personnel to have intake testing last week and then begin a rhythm of being tested every other day until the end of the season, with results delivered within 48 hours. It is the hope of the league and the union that such frequency and quick turnaround will enable the sport to locate positive cases quickly and prevent the kind of virus spread that threatens teams and the season taking place.
Thus, when multiple teams had breakdowns in the chain so soon after beginning spring training 2.0, it raised questions whether MLB could pull off having personnel tested at 30 sites and delivered to a lab in Utah, which would be processing roughly 14,000 tests per week.
MLB believes the problems came from a combination of issues. FedEx is the delivery service used, but on the holiday weekend it was not picking up or delivering. So, there was an audible to the backup delivery company, World Courier, which MLB and the Players Association use for its backup system for its performance enhancing drug testing. But unlike FedEx, the backup does not have its own fleet of planes and was at the mercy of commercial flights, which were more infrequent due to the holiday weekend and COVID-19-created limitations.
Also, in general MLB believes there was a testing backlog because there were intake testing last week and in some cases teams staggered when their personnel took the intake testing. There was also the first group of every-other-day testing beginning and the holiday weekend. So a decision was made not to test Sunday because the Utah lab would not get the tests before Monday anyway, which is why — for example — the Angels did their own testing Sunday.
This is a joint testing effort between MLB and the PA, like the PED testing, and so both sides are alerted in real time to any issues that are arising, such as delays in delivery.
MLB is hoping that with the intake testing done, further knowledge of the process and the next holiday weekend not until Labor Day, that a successful rhythm of testing will be found that will allow confidence to be regained in this system.