Players' union votes to approve new steroids policy

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Major League Baseball players made it
official, unanimously approving a new steroid agreement that
toughens penalties and could result in a lifetime ban for a third

The players' association executive board, as expected, approved
the deal worked out with management Nov. 15 under the threat of
even tougher legislation from Congress.

Union head Donald Fehr said Thursday there was no need for all
players to vote on the agreement because there were no real

"We discussed it so much with the players that there is no need
for it," Fehr said. "The executive board has the authority,

The approval came during the annual executive board meeting of
the union, attended by 45-50 board members at a resort outside Las

Baseball owners approved the same deal last month, and the
union's acceptance formalizes the pact reached in earlier

Under the agreement, players will be suspended 50 games without
pay for a first offense and 100 for a second offense. A third
positive test would result in a lifetime ban.

The sport's current penalties are a 10-day suspension for a
first offense, 30 days for a second offense and 60 days for a
third. The earliest a player could be banned for life was a fifth

The deal also includes testing for amphetamines, which many have
called an even bigger problem. A first positive test would lead to
mandatory additional testing, a second offense would draw a 25-game
suspension, and a third offense would get 80 games.

"There was no opposition," Fehr said.

The deal was negotiated between baseball and the player's union
at the same time Congress was holding hearings and threatening to
pass legislation if baseball did not clean up its own act.

Fehr acknowledged that the pressure from politicians played a
role in getting the deal done.

"Obviously the fact the issue was front and center had a role
to play in it," he said. "Nobody preferred legislation."

Fehr said a portion of the annual meeting was devoted to talking
about negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement to
replace the one that expires in December 2006.

He said he hoped a new agreement could be reached without
players going on strike or being locked out, but said he had no
idea what owners might propose.

"The economics of the industry are good," Fehr said. "But my
ability to predict what happens in negotiations over the last 25
years has not been good."

Fehr said the flurry of free agent signings and trades in recent
days means the market is alive and well. But he said it will take
some time to tell how players overall will make out during the

"The kind of activity we've seen so far in certain respects is
encouraging," he said. "But it's too early to tell."