SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With stars like Barry Bonds under
suspicion and lawmakers demanding action, Major League Baseball
adopted a tougher steroid-testing program that will suspend
first-time offenders for 10 days and randomly test players
The agreement was hailed by baseball management and its union
Thursday as a huge step forward but was criticized by some as not
going far enough because the penalties are less harsh than those in
Olympic sports and amphetamines were not banned.
"I've been saying for some time that my goal for this industry
is zero tolerance regarding steroids," commissioner Bud Selig
A first positive test would result in a penalty of 10 days, a
second positive test in a 30-day ban, a third positive in a 60-day
penalty, and a fourth positive test in a one-year ban -- all without
pay. A player who tests positive a fifth time would be subject to
discipline determined by the commissioner.
"It's more for our protection than anything else," Boston
pitcher Tim Wakefield said.
Under the previous agreement, a first positive test resulted
only in treatment, and a second positive test was subject to a
15-day suspension. Only with a fifth positive test would a player
have been subject to a one-year ban.
No player was suspended for steroid use in 2004, the first
season of testing with penalties.
"We're acting today to help restore the confidence of our
fans," Selig said.
Since the old agreement was reached in 2002, baseball has come
under increased scrutiny about steroids.
Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO who is currently under federal indictment for his role in supplying steroids to athletes, isn't convinced baseball is going far enough.
"The new baseball drug policy is still a joke," Conte told ESPN The Magazine. "The question is why do they not ban stimulants? It is like attempting to reduce crime by banning the use of handguns, but still allowing criminals to use rifles.
"Steroids are only Schedule III drugs and stimulants are Schedule I drugs with higher abuse risk and much more severe criminal penalties. It makes no sense."
The issue was drawing so much interest President Bush mentioned it in last
year's State of the Union address.
"I will be surprised if over time this doesn't take care of the
problem virtually completely," union head Donald Fehr said,
speaking by telephone from Los Angeles.
Said St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa: "I just hope
it's the Cadillac of all policies because that's what major league
baseball needs. There's no doubt we have a problem."
The old deal wasn't due to expire until December 2006, but the
union took the rare step of renegotiating a major section of its
labor contract. The new rules run until December 2008.
"It appears to be a significant breakthrough," Sen. John
McCain said in Washington.
McCain, who had threatened baseball with legislation, said that
is no longer necessary, though he would have preferred a 10- to
15-game suspension for a first offense and a permanent ban for
multiple positive tests.
"I would have liked to see amphetamines added to this list,"
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson commended
players and owners.
"Not only is this good for the game and for the sport in
general, but professional athletes are role models to millions of
youth and aspiring athletes across the country," Thompson said,
"and this step shows that the long-term health consequences do not
outweigh any short-term gain."
Still, it wasn't good enough for World Anti-Doping Agency
chairman Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic
Committee since 1978.
"Basically, instead of having to hold up the liquor store five
times before you get a one-year suspension, you only have to hold
it up four times," he said. "But at least there's some penalty
incurred the first time that you're tested, and that's a step
In addition to one mandatory test each season, players will be
randomly selected for additional tests, with no limit on the
number, and for the first time will be subject to random tests
during the offseason. In addition, diuretics and many steroid
precursors were added to the banned list.
However, WADA's Dr. Gary Wadler called the new policy "somewhat
disingenuous" and "a Band-Aid."
As in the previous deal, a player who tests positive will be
targeted for more tests along with those who within the previous 12
months give a joint management-union panel reason to determine
there is "reasonable cause."
Wadler specifically criticized the failure to address
amphetamines, which many in baseball consider to be a far greater
problem than steroids.
"Amphetamines, better known as 'greenies,' have a long
tradition in baseball," Wadler said. "For them not to ban it
The issue of amphetamines came up during the talks between
owners and players, said Rob Manfred, management's chief labor
"Our focus, as Don said, was really performance-enhancing
substances in terms of muscle building," Manfred said.
"Stimulants are a complicated area. Are they performance
enhancing? How should they be regulated? That's something that
we've put to the health policy advisory committee to look at
because we weren't prepared to deal with it."
Human growth hormone was added to a longer list of banned
substances, but it will be found only when science determines a way
to detect it in urine samples. Currently, it can be found only in
blood tests, which will not be conducted in baseball.
"We had a problem and we dealt with the problem," Selig said.
"I regarded this as not only a health issue, but certainly you
could say it was an integrity issue in this sport."
The agreement was approved by owners Thursday but still must be
voted on by players.
"I don't believe it's appropriate to search anybody -- either
his home, or his garage, or his trunk, or his bladder or his
bloodstream -- without getting a court order showing probable
cause," former union head Marvin Miller said.
First-time offenders are suspended for at least four games in
the NFL and for five games in the NBA. WADA's code, which has been
adopted by most Olympic sports, says the "norm" is two-year bans
for a first positive test and a lifetime ban for a second, unless
there are mitigating circumstances.
Selig would not address what action baseball would take, if any,
against players who had been found to be using steroids in the
past. Baseball officials have said repeatedly that they didn't plan
to penalize players for admissions of use prior to September 2002,
when the initial agreement took effect.
"I have consistently said we're not going to engage in any
conjecture," Selig said. "There has been a lot of conjecture but
there have been no players that have been convicted of anything."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.