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.
A glance at Tuesday's drug-testing agreement between baseball
players and owners:
-- The Associated Press contributed to this glance.
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  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."
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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