Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig today responded to the recent revelations that Alex Rodriguez took performance-enhancing substances while a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez's use of performance-
enhancing substances," Commissioner Selig said. "While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game.
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. His actions are also a reminder to everyone in baseball -- under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games. Eradicating performance-enhancing substances from the game of baseball has been my first priority over the past decade and it is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity."
Commissioner Selig began a testing program in the minor leagues where he had the authority to act unilaterally in 2001. Since then, the use of performance-enhancing substances has decreased from more than nine percent to much less than one percent.
Major League Baseball first made a proposal to test for steroids in the 1994-95 labor negotiations but was rebuffed by the Union. In 2002, the Commissioner's Office finally succeeded in negotiating a drug testing program in the Basic Agreement but only after an extremely contentious standoff on the issue. That led to the 2003 survey testing that is central to the Sports Illustrated story and eventually to mandatory random testing with penalties in 2004.
Since then, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have improved the drug testing program on several occasions so that it is now the toughest program in professional sports with the stiffest penalties. The most recent amendments adopted all of the recommendations made by Senator Mitchell in his 2007 report. Under the program, positive tests have decreased from five to seven percent in the 2003 survey test to less than one-tenth of a percentage point last year. Over the last three years, Major League Baseball has had only eight players test positive for steroids -- three in 2006, two in 2007 and three in 2008.
MLB's testing program, which is conducted at the WADA-certified laboratory in Montreal and uses the most modern technology, is random, unannounced and conducted year-round. In addition to two mandatory tests during the season, every player is subject to additional year-round, random testing. There is no limit to how many times a player can be tested. And, in 2006, Major League Baseball expanded the program and began to randomly test for amphetamines, thus attacking a problem that had existed in baseball for decades.
In March 2006, Commissioner Selig commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct a thorough investigation of the use of performance-enhancing substances in Major League Baseball. He was given complete freedom. The only requirement was to make his findings public when he completed his work. Although, Senator Mitchell received no cooperation from the Players Association and virtually none from the players, he demonstrated that the use of such drugs was prevalent through the late-90s and the early part of this decade. He also concluded that the current program was an effective deterrent.
Following the Mitchell Report, Major League Baseball adopted a series of management changes recommended by the Senator and designed to assist in the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.
Among them, Major League Baseball established an independent department of investigations to pursue 'non-analytical positives.' That department, which has eleven full-time staff, has been effective in uncovering drug use and in establishing better relationships with federal authorities. Major League Baseball also began background checks and more drug-testing for clubhouse personnel. And, for the first time, MLB tested potential selections in the amateur draft. Major League Baseball is well aware that keeping up with the chemists and the drug users is a difficult task and that the lack of a valid test -- blood or urine -- for Human Growth Hormone is problematic, not only for baseball but for all sports. However, Major League Baseball, along with the National Football League, is funding Dr. Don Catlin in his search for a urine test for HGH. We are also partners with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the United States Anti-Doping Association, and the NFL in the Partnership for Clean Competition, which is devoted to anti-doping research.
Major League Baseball also helps fund the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, organizations dedicated to educating America's youth and their parents about the dangers of using performance-enhancing substances.
Commissioner Selig said: "I regularly meet with professional athletic trainers and doctors who keep me apprised of their current views on performing-enhancing substances. They have expressed confidence that the current program is working and that the use of these substances by our players in today's game is negligible.
"We are fully committed to ridding our game of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances. These drugs and those who use them and facilitate their use threaten the integrity of our sport. It is disappointing that others may have acted to thwart or prevent a legitimate drug testing program from being implemented sooner. That only served to stiffen our resolve. We are very proud of the enormous progress we have made, and it is important to note that the recent revelations are at least five years old and a residue of pre-program behavior. But we will not rest or relax our efforts until the use of these illegal drugs are gone from baseball."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.