11/13/2003 6:07 PM ET
Mandatory steroid testing to begin
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
MLB press release
Commissioner Selig's statement
Mandatory program testing of Major League players for steroid use will begin in the spring of 2004 after this year's survey testing surpassed the threshold of 5 percent positive results stipulated in the Basic Agreement, Major League Baseball announced Thursday in conjunction with the players association.
For the first time in the sports' history, players could be subject to fines and suspension for failing and repeating to fail random drug testing that reveals use of one of 28 federally banned anabolic androgenic steroids. The union and MLB labor negotiators adopted mandatory testing for steroid use in the Basic Agreement, which was signed in 2002.
Five to 7 percent of 1,438 players tested positively this year. The tests, which began during Spring Training, were conducted anonymously and unannounced on players who were members of each club's 40-man big-league roster. Subsequently, 240 of the same players were tested again without notice at some point during the 2003 regular season. Next year, all players will be subject to two unannounced tests -- an initial test and a follow-up test five to seven days later -- sometime during the course of the 2004 season.
"We reached the agreement with the players association with the mind that we didn't know what the survey would produce," said Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources. "We had heard things about crazy steroid use. We knew that a lot of the numbers written were astronomically high based on our minor-league testing. But frankly, we didn't know what to expect."
Minor league players not on the 40-man roster have been subjected to a wider form of drug testing since 2001. In addition to steroids testing, those minor leaguers who are not members of the union are also subjected to testing for over-the-counter bodybuilding supplements, alcohol and at least seven "Drugs of Abuse," including cocaine, LSD, marijuana and heroin. MLB players can be tested for "Drugs of Abuse" only if there is just cause to do so.
Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that he was pleased to learn "that there is not widespread steroid use in baseball."
"I am also pleased that the drug testing program negotiated last year as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players association heightened awareness to the dangers of improper drug use and now has allowed us the means to implement the new more comprehensive drug testing and enforcement program," he added. "Hopefully, this will, over time, allow us to completely eradicate the use of performance enhancement substances in baseball."
Drug testing and the entire program is administered by a Health Policy and Advisory Committee that includes Manfred, Gene Orza, an associate counsel for the union, and one licensed medical representative for both the players association and MLB.
Under program testing, all players starting this March 2 will be subject to the same tests used this year in survey testing on a random basis. This time, though, the identity of anyone fined or suspended will be released.
"It's pretty hard to hide a missing player during the season," Manfred said.
Any player testing positive would immediately enter the "Clinical Track" to be treated for steroid use. If a player under treatment fails another test, is convicted or pleads guilty to the sale and or use of a prohibited substance, that player would immediately be moved to the "Administrative Track" and subject to discipline.
Depending upon the repeated use of the drug, any player failing to comply to his treatment program can be suspended from an initial 15 days with a $10,000 fine to a one-year suspension with a $100,000 fine if he fails to comply for the fifth time. All suspensions are without pay.
The series of treatment, then suspension and fine is aimed at removing steroid use from the game.
"Ultimately, you don't want it to be part of your game, not just for the game itself but for potential health issues -- present health issues and potential future health issues," said Oakland A's Billy Beane, who is in Phoenix this week for the general managers' meetings. "It's good that there's attention being paid to it."
Under terms of the 2002 drug agreement, all anabolic steroids deemed illegal by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are subject to testing. When the FDA recently banned the drug THG, it was immediately added to the list by a clause in the Basic Agreement authorizing the Health Policy and Advisory Committee to do so by a unanimous vote.
Many players have said all along that they were in favor of drug testing as a way of rooting steroid use out of the sport. Until the 2002 CBA was negotiated, the union had declined to collectively bargain it, citing privacy issues, while stipulating that drug testing was an abuse of human rights.
"It's fine with me because I'm all natural," said Angels pitcher Scot Shields. "It'll make the competition more even. I'm in favor of it. The playing field will be leveled out and people who go out and earn a job will really earn it."
Orza said he and the union were heartened that the percentage of those testing positively for steroid use this year wasn't higher.
"Plainly, many of the widely publicized claims regarding steroid use in the sport turn out to have been grossly uninformed, as do the suggestions that the agreement with the clubs was designed to avoid a penalty-based testing regimen," Orza said. "That said, we will continue to work with the clubs in the administration of the new testing program in the same spirit of cooperation that marked the administration of the 2003 survey testing."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. MLB reporters John Schlegel and Doug Miller contributed to this story, which was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.