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Olympic-style testing plan on tap?

3/30/2004 - MLB

TOKYO -- Baseball's chief labor negotiator expects an
agreement soon with the players' association on a World Cup
tournament, putting aside for now the larger issue of drug tests
during the regular season.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor
relations, said the sides have concentrated on a drug-testing
agreement for a World Cup because a decision must be made soon
whether to launch the tournament before the 2005 season.

"The focus is on the World Cup because of the timing. But we
are equally concerned about the larger issue," he said before
Tampa Bay beat the New York Yankees 8-3 in Tuesday night's season
opener. "We need an agreement in order to have the World Cup
tournament. We have an independent set of concerns with respect to
certain aspects of the major league policy."

While players generally oppose Olympic drug-testing guidelines,
which call for more frequent tests and harsher penalties than those
in baseball, union chief operating officer Gene Orza said Sunday
that his side is willing to agree to IOC-style rules for a World
Cup.

That could lead to the situation where a player who tests
positive for a banned steroid would receive a two-year suspension
from international play but be sent to counseling by baseball while
continuing to play, the penalty designated for a first offense in
the sport's labor contract.

"There is a discontinuity between the sanctions that are
applied in the international context and the ones that are applied
with respect to people's livelihoods," Manfred said, adding the
different penalties would not be a problem.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig would like more frequent testing
and harsher penalties than the ones management and the union agreed
to in 2002. He also wants more substances to be banned.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to designate
androstenedione and more than two dozen other steroid-like
supplements currently available without prescription as controlled
substances. Andro is the substance Mark McGwire used when he hit 70
homers in 1998.

If that bill is enacted, those drugs automatically would be
added to baseball's banned list.

"I think the legislation is going to pass," Manfred said.
"Once that passes, the gap between the Olympic list and our list
is almost nonexistent and it's a non-issue."