Tests for major leaguers start in March

Updated: November 17, 2003, 10:41 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Starting next year, steroid users in baseball will be subject to suspensions or fines.

The Penalty Phase
First positive test: Player gets treatment.

Second positive test: 15-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine.

Third positive test: 25-day suspension or up to a $25,000 fine.

Fourth positive test: 50-day suspension or up to a $50,000 fine.

Fifth positive test: One-year suspension or up to a $100,000 fine.

Note: All suspensions are without pay.

Results of 2003's anonymous tests were announced Thursday and they confirmed what many in baseball suspected: Some players were taking more than vitamins.

Rumors regarding steroids had run high recently as bulked-up sluggers set all sorts of home run records. Stars such as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa denied taking the drugs. But former MVPs Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti admitted they had done it before their careers ended.

"Hopefully, this will, over time, allow us to completely eradicate the use of performance enhancement substances in baseball," commissioner Bud Selig said.

Under baseball's labor contract that took effect on Sept. 30, 2002, testing with penalties begins after any season in which more than 5 percent of survey tests are positive.

Of 1,438 anonymous tests this season, between 5 and 7 percent were positive.

"There's a slight disagreement to where in that spectrum the exact number falls," said Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association. "It's a technical disagreement to the interpretation of the results."

From now on, players who test positive will be identified to the commissioner's office and the union.

Reaction from GM meetings
PHOENIX -- Oakland general manager Billy Beane said he was surprised that players exceeded the threshold in the labor agreement. But he said the prospect of testing won't affect the way he does his job in looking to acquire players.

''You don't want it to be a part of your game, not just for the game itself, but for health issues -- present health issues and unknown future health issues,'' Beane said. ''But I don't have a crystal ball where I can predict who is or potentially is doing it. I don't think it will have any impact on our winter in Oakland.''

Arizona GM Joe Garagiola said the results were indicative that there's a problem in the game with steroid use.

''It's a significant number of players,'' Garagiola said. ''Everybody recognized this was a problem. That's why the association agreed to the testing in the first place. It was a big step for them. People were critical and said it wasn't enough. But this enables us to take the next step in this process.

''It's a serious issue that requires serious solutions. In the near term, it's about performance. Over the long term, everybody knows the health issues that are raised. This is a positive in the sense that we move on to a new phase of testing, and hopefully it will allow us to get our arms around this issue. Now we'll know.''

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN Insider

Starting next year, a first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.

The length of penalties would increase to a 25-day suspension or fine of up to $25,000 for a third positive test, a 50-day suspension or fine of up to $50,000 for a fourth and a one-year suspension or fine of up to $100,000 for a fifth. The suspensions would be without pay.

New York Mets reliever Mike Stanton didn't think steroid use had been that widespread.

"It does surprise me a little bit," he said. "But the tests don't lie."

The newly discovered steroid THG was not tested for, and baseball cannot retest because the samples weren't saved. But it already has been added to the banned list for next year.

The NFL, NBA and NCAA test for banned steroids and other prohibited substances, but the NHL does not. For substances other than steroids, baseball tests a player only if doctors agree there is cause.

World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound derided baseball's testing system and scale of penalties for steroid use. Under the agency's code, which has been adopted by most Olympic sports, an athlete faces a minimum two-year ban for a first positive steroid test and a life ban for a second.

"I think it's an insult to the fight against doping in sport, an insult to the intelligence of the American public and an insult to the game itself," Pound told The Associated Press on Friday.

"You can test positive for steroids five times, then they think of booting you out for a year? Give me a break. The first time someone has knowingly cheated and they give you counseling? It's a complete and utter joke."

Olympic athletes are subjected to out-of-competition testing, and far more substances are banned.

"A positive rate of 5 percent is hardly the sign that you have rampant use of anything," said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations. "From our perspective, it's still a problem. We'd like to be at zero."

Baseball has been testing players with minor league contracts for drugs since 2001 and in September announced that testing would expand to Latin American prospects next year. This year, 1,198 major leaguers were tested for steroids, and an additional 240 were selected for random tests.

"As a pitcher, I think it would be nice if they did get everybody who is on steroids and did get them off it," Oakland's Tim Hudson said.

Testing with penalties will continue until positive tests drop below 2.5 percent over a two-year period.

"I had no expectation one way or the other," Orza said. "I did know the claims that put the pressure on the players to address this problem the way they did were wildly inflated."

Said Minnesota outfielder Dustan Mohr: "I'm kind of surprised it's not higher."

"I think it's less than what people might think, but when you see a guy who puts on 20 pounds of solid muscle, it kind of raises your eyebrows," he said.

Some players, notably on the Chicago White Sox, had called for even more stringent testing.

"I guess if people want it bad enough they find their way around the system," Oakland pitcher Ted Lilly said. "There's still other supplements and aids out there that aren't exactly steroids. If there's anything out there that can help, I'd imagine players would find it."

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