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Commish wishes he knew then what he knows now

3/19/2005

MESA, Ariz. -- Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the notion
that baseball officials knew steroids were a problem 10 years ago
but did nothing about it.

"It's easy to look back and rewrite history," Selig said
Saturday. "People can say that we knew, but I'd like to know on
what basis. There certainly is no medical evidence. There was no
testing."

Speaking during a spring training game between the Milwaukee
Brewers and Chicago Cubs, Selig also dismissed the theory that
owners looked the other way on steroids because they were happy
with the home run boom in the late 1990s.

"I never had an owner say to me, I like what you're doing,
commissioner. These home runs are helping us. All this business
about you should have known or you could have known, I take very
seriously, but the programs have kicked in, and we're going to have
to do whatever we have to do to eradicate steroids from our
sport," Selig said.

"It's not like we've ignored the problem. You can't minimize
the health risk. Nobody is taking this lightly."

Selig admitted that he wished he "knew in 1995 what I know
now," but also defended baseball's current drug-testing policy.
The sport banned steroids in September 2002 and began testing for
them with penalties in 2004.

Under a new agreement this offseason, players are tested
randomly and a first offense is subject to a 10-day suspension or a
fine.

"What is the objective here in the end?" Selig said. "The
objective is to eradicate steroids from baseball. That's the
objective. If these programs do that, isn't that what we're
supposed to have done? I'm not going to rest until we eradicate
steroids. Whatever it takes to get that done, that's what we're
going to do."

Selig and other baseball officials testified Thursday at a
congressional hearing on steroids, along with past and present
sluggers such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro.

The commissioner said he was surprised that congress got
involved so soon after baseball implemented its new testing program
on March 3.

"Everybody was sort of patting us on the back," Selig said.
"Now we test year-round, random tests, multiple tests, all the
things people had complained about. Am I a little surprised that
the new program wasn't at least allowed to work a little bit? We
didn't start testing until the 3rd of March. The new program is in
force.

"Would I like tougher penalties? I would. They asked me about
federal legislation. That is something baseball would not object
to. This is a subject of collective bargaining. This is the program
that we have. At least it's working," he said.

The commissioner said he wasn't sure how baseball fared in the
court of public opinion during the congressional hearing.

"It's hard for me to assess," Selig said. "Nobody worries
more about the image of the sport than I do. I'm proud of our
players."