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03/02/05 7:14 PM ET
Drug testing to begin Thursday
New agreement expected to be ratified by players soon
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
WASHINGTON -- Drug testing for a wide variety of steroids, under the auspices of a new agreement, will begin in Major League camps on Thursday, said baseball's top labor official. The testing is slated to begin even though the final wording of the new agreement is not complete and the players have yet to ratify it. "This is by mutual agreement of the owners and the players," Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, said Wednesday. "The paperwork is almost done. So there are really no issues." Don Fehr, executive director of the union, said over the weekend that the new drug program is expected to be ratified by the players "in a matter of days." "[The reaction has] all been positive," said Fehr, who is touring camps in Arizona to brief teams. "I expect [the agreement] to be ratified without any difficulty." The program calls for year-round testing for steroid use and stricter penalties for those who initially test positive -- a 10-day suspension without pay, and the public revelation of that player's name, for the first offense. It was endorsed unanimously by the owners at their joint meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January and replaces the current policy, which was an attachment to the Basic Agreement. The new program will now act as a stand-alone agreement and extend through the 2008 season. As far as the testing goes, all players on the 40-man roster of each MLB team will be tested at least once each season, beginning on Thursday. In addition, there will be no limit on in-season random retesting of any player. The first year of survey testing in 2003 revealed that five to seven percent of MLB players on each team's 40-man roster had tested positive for steroid use, allowing last year's punitive stage of the program to kick in. Though MLB has not released figures of steroid use for last season, officials have said that no player tested positive twice. In the old agreement, a first positive test put the player on a clinical track and the second led to a fine or suspension.
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.