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Vizquel: 50 games for first offense 'just really crazy'

SAN FRANCISCO -- While Omar Vizquel supports a strict
steroids policy in baseball, the agreement reached by owners and
players Tuesday caught San Francisco's shortstop by surprise
because of the severity of the penalty for a first-time offense.

The sides agreed to a deal -- it still needs ratification from
both parties -- that calls for a 50-game suspension for a first
failed test, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

The policy also includes testing for amphetamines for the first
time.

"I never thought they were serious about that: 50, 100 and
lifetime," Vizquel said in a phone interview from his Seattle-area
home. "Wow, that's just really crazy. I agree they should raise
the number of games, but that's a lot of games right there."

Some players considered the penalty for first-time offenders to
be harsh, but understood commissioner Bud Selig's need to do
something amid the rising pressure from Congress for a tougher
policy.

"Obviously with Congress kind of stepping up their intensity in
terms of legislation, that pushed both sides to get it done a
little quicker," said Padres second baseman Mark Loretta, San
Diego's player representative. "I don't know whether this will
stop legislation. It remains to be seen if this is sufficient
enough. It was our view that whatever we could negotiate together
would be better than having the government legislate over us."

The current punishments are a 10-day suspension for a first
offense, 30 days for a second offense and 60 days for a third. The
earliest a player could be banned for life is a fifth offense.

"If you get caught the third time you definitely need to be
thrown out of baseball," said St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, who
answered questions on the topic after receiving the NL MVP award
Tuesday. "If you get caught the third time, it means you're not
learning the lesson. ... You shouldn't be able to be caught the
third time because after the first time, if you don't learn from
that, from 50 games that you sit down without getting paid, that's
pretty bad."

The 38-year-old Vizquel just completed his 17th major league
season and first with the Giants following 11 years with Cleveland.
At 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, he has always prided himself in taking
care of his body and being able to remain one of baseball's best
defensive shortstops even late in his career.

Vizquel, who earned his 10th Gold Glove award this year,
understands that young players want to do everything possible to
gain an edge, but knows the latest attempts to curb steroid use
will change that.

"I think those are pretty severe regulations," he said. "If
they have been testing for this year [2005] and a few players
tested positive, this next year is really serious. It really sends
a message to the kids out there trying to improve their
performances and telling them not to use steroids. I think players
are really going to think twice if they're going to take something
to improve and get bigger.

"That's two months out of the season. You need a whole spring
training to come back from 50 games. If you don't practice for a
week, you lose your timing and everything. I can't imagine 50
games."

Loretta is optimistic this policy will work, and that maybe the
focus on illegal performance-enhancing drugs will die down for now.

"I think it's positive," Loretta said. "All along, the
players have been open to a policy and wanted to have a responsible
one and address the issues and rid the game of steroids. My hope is
that this finally puts it behind us. If we hadn't already, this
will basically rid the game of steroids. Obviously you can't
control the THG's of the world, or whatever the scientists can cook
up to be ahead of the testing."