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Selig seeks stronger drug policy
12/04/2004 12:58 AM ET
On a second day in which testimony from a federal grand jury's investigation into steroid distribution to elite athletes made headlines, Commissioner Bud Selig urged the Major League Baseball Players Association on Friday to work with management to toughen baseball's drug-testing policies.

"As I have repeatedly stated, I am fully committed to the goal of immediately ridding our great game of illegal performance-enhancing substances," Selig said in a written statement. "The use of these substances continues to raise issues regarding the game's integrity and raises serious concerns about the health and well-being of our players."

Selig's statement was released in the wake of grand jury testimony leaked this week to the San Francisco Chronicle in which the Yankees' Jason Giambi acknowledged injecting steroids and Giants slugger Barry Bonds said he used a cream that he did not realize contained a performance-enhancing substance.

Late last year, 10 MLB players, including Bonds and Giambi, were called to appear in front of a San Francisco grand jury investigating the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) for tax fraud and the sale of steroid-based drugs without a prescription. Previously the Yankees' Gary Sheffield, who also testified, said he, like Bonds, had inadvertently used a cream that contained steroids.

Four people were indicted, including Victor Conte, BALCO's founder and president. No players have been charged in the case.

The MLB Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program, as collectively bargained with the union, just concluded its second season, and the first one under which players could be punished for testing positive for steroids. That program, according to Selig and many critics, does not go far enough.

Selig has been pushing for the adoption of a tougher program modeled on the system instituted in 2001 at the minor league level, a system that includes harsher punitive measures and year-round testing for a wider array of performance-enhancing and recreational drugs.

"I am aware the Major League Baseball Players Association is having its annual meeting with its Executive Board of player representatives next week," Selig said. "I urge the players and their association to emerge from this meeting ready to join me in adopting a new, stronger drug testing policy modeled after our minor league program that will once and for all rid the game of the scourge of illegal drugs."

Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, was not immediately available for comment. A players association spokesman said the union had no comment Friday about the reports out of San Francisco.

The current drug program was agreed to in 2002 in a Basic Agreement that expires on Dec. 19, 2006. The inclusion of steroid testing marked the first time the union has agreed to drug testing of any kind without probable cause.

The program called for a year of anonymous survey testing in 2003. When the results revealed that five to seven percent of MLB players had tested positive, the more stringent "program testing" automatically kicked in for 2004.

In 2004, all players on the 40-man rosters of each Major League team were subject to in-season random urinalysis. Players testing positive would receive clinical treatment and more testing. Players' identities would be revealed after a second positive result, and the league would levy escalating fines or suspensions.

Bonds was tested in the final week of the season. Like all other players, his results were not made public.

Thus far, MLB hasn't announced the identity of a single player, so it is assumed that none has tested positive for a second time. Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, confirmed to The New York Times this week that no player had tested positive twice this past season.

According to the agreement, the program would revert back to anonymous survey testing if fewer than 2.5 percent of players tested positive for two consecutive years.

MLB's program has been under fire since the BALCO case spurred a U.S. Senate sub-committee to set a meeting on the subject last March. A number of Senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), pointedly told Selig and union executive director Don Fehr, both of whom testified, that they needed to work together to develop a tougher way to deal with steroid use.

At the time, McCain threatened federal intervention if the two sides didn't come to an agreement on the issue. On Friday, McCain warned that he will introduce legislation in the Senate this coming January that, if passed, could possibly implement the minor league drug program in the Major Leagues.

"Major League Baseball players and owners should meet immediately to enact the standards that apply to the minor leagues," he said. "And if they don't I will have to introduce legislation that says professional sports will have minimum standards for testing. I'll give them until January and then I will introduce the legislation."

MLB and the union have had on and off negotiations since then.

On Thursday, after news of Giambi's grand jury testimony became public, Selig said he hoped to have a new agreement in place by the start of the 2005 season.

"This once again demonstrates the need to implement a tougher and more effective Major League drug-testing program," Selig said. "I have instructed Rob Manfred to look into this situation and to continue working with the (union) to have a drug-testing program that mirrors the very effective policy we currently have in the minor leagues.

"I will leave no stone unturned in accomplishing our goal of zero tolerance by the start of Spring Training and am confident we will achieve this goal."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.