NEW YORK -- The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency urged Major League Baseball to adopt its code, which includes a two-year suspension for an athlete's first positive test.
MLB and the players' association have toughened their drug rules three times since their initial agreement in August 2002, and MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred quickly dismissed criticism by WADA president John Fahey, calling him "sadly misinformed." The current policy calls for 50-game suspensions for first offenses, 100-game penalties for second offenses and lifetime bans for third violations.
WADA specifies a lifetime ban for a second offense.
"MLB, the players and all those involved in the league need to clearly demonstrate that they are committed to ridding their sport from doping," Fahey said in a statement Wednesday. "With recent cases, investigations and revelations, including in recently published books, the evidence is indisputable that doping remains an entrenched issue in baseball."
Three-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez said in February he used steroids from 2001-03 while with Texas. He made the admission following a Sports Illustrated report he tested positive during baseball's anonymous 2003 survey test, which didn't carry any penalties.
Fahey said baseball's current drug rules, adopted last year, didn't go as far as recommendations made in late 2007 by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Boston Red Sox director hired by commissioner Bud Selig to report on performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.
"Unfortunately, while a number of incremental improvements were introduced in the MLB anti-doping program following the release of the Mitchell report in 2007, these elements fall far short of the universally accepted standards of the world anti-doping code," Fahey said. "If they have nothing to hide, why don't the MLB and the MLBPA join the rest of the world under the umbrella of the code?"
Selig and union head Donald Fehr have repeatedly said they are satisfied with the sport's drug rules.
"It is absurd to suggest that 'recently published books' -- which allege steroid use that occurred years ago -- have any relevance to our current program," Manfred said. "As demonstrated by recent events, when a player tests positive, the penalty is public and severe."
Manfred said baseball's rules are appropriate for a unionized professional sport.
"A first-time offender misses 50 competitive events. Even with a two-year ban, no Olympic athlete misses that many competitive events," he said. "There is a reason why no major professional sport operates under the umbrella of the World Anti-Doping Agency. This reason is that officials like Mr. Fahey fail to appreciate that professional sports operate in a very different legal and competitive environment than do Olympic sports"
Fehr said the focus should be on baseball's current rules.
"It is unfortunate that Mr. Fahey chooses to address his comments to matters that occurred years ago, which is something he should have realized," Fehr said. "After the Mitchell Report, Sen. Mitchell and others publicly indicated their satisfaction with the changes made. It is clear that we have both a a strong and a demonstrably effective program."