MLB, union formalize new drug policy
Deal creates independent administrator, increases testing
Major League Baseball and the Players Association have agreed to an enhanced drug policy that enacts all of the recommendations made by former Sen. George Mitchell in his report that analyzed the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport late last year.Administration of the program, which Mitchell had already called "the strongest in U.S. professional sports," will be turned over to an outside party, Dr. Bryan Smith, who has been sharing in that administration in recent years with a lawyer for the owners and a lawyer for union. Smith has been appointed for an initial term of three years. "Baseball already has the toughest penalties in professional sports and our testing program will now be more rigorous and independent than ever -- with additional in-season and offseason tests," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "I will continue to take every step necessary to protect the integrity of this game. "Sen. Mitchell made sound recommendations for improvements to our Joint Drug Agreement and I am gratified that the Players Association once again proved willing to work with us to improve the program." In addition to those increased tests both in and out of season, Selig agreed that he would not discipline any of the active players named in the Mitchell Report in lieu of community service and a $200,000 contribution by the union to an anti-drug charitable, educational or research organization. Any fines imposed on management will be donated to the Partnership of a Drug Free America and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.
Royals outfielder Jose Guillen, who was suspended prior to the Dec. 13 issuing of Mitchell's report for admitting the use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2004, also had his punishment commuted.The deal, which also includes testing of the top 200 amateur players eligible for the annual First-Year Player Draft, was the result of months of collective bargaining, which began in the wake of Mitchell's report and Congressional hearings staged earlier the year. There was an urgency on both sides to hammer out these details as soon as possible, said Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations and human resources. "I think there was really good cooperation between the parties," said Manfred, who has been management's chief negotiator in these successful collective bargaining sessions for a good part of this decade. "Both sides have a reason to be proud of themselves. No matter what difficulties we had within the context, we went forward, we went forward quickly and made a very good agreement."
It's the third time since the drug policy was collectively bargained in 2002 that the owners and union reopened and enhanced the policy to toughen the existing rules.It was formally reopened for the first time in January 2005 when penalties were inserted for any first-time offenders. Before the end of that calendar year, the policy was adjusted again from 10 days for a first positive test to the current penalty schedule, plus year-round testing was formally instituted. Both times more drugs were added to the list of those banned, including human growth hormone and amphetamines in November 2005. In the report, Mitchell made 20 recommendations to strengthen the current program, about a half-dozen of which couldn't be adopted unless the changes were collectively bargained. Selig had already unilaterally instituted a number of them, including formation of a Department of Investigations, which is now in charge of pursuing any charges or rumors of drug use by Major League or Minor League players. "The Commissioner deserves a lot of credit for getting all of [the recommendations] done," Manfred said. "Just overall, this is a good week for the Commissioner the way this has all played out." Mitchell said that the current penalties -- 50 games for a first positive test, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third with the right to apply for reinstatement after two years -- were adequate, and those won't change. But he advised that the program should be independently administrated, be more transparent, that testing -- in season and out -- should be increased, education be a necessary component and that new and better testing practices are able to be implemented without having to reopen the program on each occasion. Mitchell also recommended that Selig refrain from punishing any of the active players named in the report, which are actually only some of the 89 mentioned. In the end, Selig agreed. "It is time for the game to move forward," Selig said. "There is little to be gained at this point in debating dated misconduct and enduring numerous disciplinary proceedings. Educating children and their parents about the dangers of performance-enhancing substances is a much more productive endeavor." Addressing the issue of transparency, the sides have allowed Smith complete autonomy to file an annual written report summarizing the number of tests administered, the number of positive tests resulting in discipline, the substances involved in the positives, the number of players given therapeutic-use exemptions listed by category of ailment and the number of non-analytical positives. The new agreement also requires that records of negative test results be maintained for two years and that Smith annually audit test results and review the performance of the collection company and the laboratory. Previously, no annual report was presented and test results were earmarked to be destroyed at the conclusion of each calendar year. Smith's initial three-year term can be renewed for four successive terms and he can only be removed from his position by an independent arbitrator if he or she rules that Smith has acted in a manner inconsistent with the program or has engaged in other misconduct that affects his ability to function in the position. Other significant improvements in the program include: An additional 600 tests per year, bringing the total number of tests to 3,600, an average of three per player per year. That figure includes an authorization for Smith to conduct 375 offseason tests during his three-year initial term, thus doubling, on average, the current number of offseason tests. The agreement expands the list of banned substances to include insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), gonadotropins, aromatase inhibitors, selective estrogen receptor modulators, and anti-estrogens, including clomid. Beginning in 2009, Major League Baseball will impose uniform certification requirements on full-time strength and conditioning coaches employed by each team. In 2010, Selig will issue guidelines designed to ensure that qualified strength and conditioning coaches are available to players at all levels of every organization. Major League players, including players named in the Mitchell Report, will join MLB to help educate youth and their parents regarding the dangers of performance-enhancing substances. Teams will be notified if any amateur player tests positive, although the player would still be eligible for that year's Draft. Any amateur player declining to be tested will lose his eligibility for the Draft. Manfred said that the program administrator will use the list of top 200 amateur prospects compiled each year by the MLB Scouting Bureau as the basis for those players to be tested. Plus, drug testers will fan out to high schools, colleges and homes to conduct these tests. "We're going to use a combination of mechanisms," Manfred said. "We're going to contact individual players -- we have the names and addresses of all of them. We'll work with colleges and universities to try and avoid doing one guy in one spot at a time. It's going to be a little bit of a logistical challenge, but one, frankly, that we think is worthwhile."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.