WADA president: Baseball should transfer drug testing to independent group

Updated: January 16, 2008, 8:57 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The World Anti-Doping Agency's new president severely criticized Major League Baseball on Wednesday, saying the sport was resisting George Mitchell's recommendation to transfer drug testing to an independent organization.

A day after the former Senate majority leader testified at a congressional hearing along with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and union head Donald Fehr, new WADA boss John Fahey blistered the sport for loopholes in its drug-testing program and heightened tension between MLB and the drug body.

"Professional baseball's response to Sen. Mitchell's report is baffling," Fahey said in a statement. "To suggest that it might continue to keep its anti-doping testing program in-house ... is demeaning to Sen. Mitchell and the congressional committees who view doping as a serious threat to public health."

Selig fired right back at Fahey, who took over from Dick Pound on Jan. 1.

"WADA does not have a monopoly on independence in the world of drug testing," Selig said.

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations, was even harsher.

"These continuing, unprovoked, inaccurate publicity stunts by WADA have created an unwillingness to become more involved with WADA and its affiliates," Manfred said. "We were hopeful that false public statements by WADA would end with its recent change in leadership, and we are deeply disappointed that Mr. Fahey is showing the same counterproductive tendencies as his predecessor."

Since its inception in 2002, MLB's drug program has been run by a joint management-player committee. After prodding from Congress, a jointly picked independent administrator was added for the 2006 season but the administrator can be removed at any time by either party.

Fahey claimed baseball and the players' union say they will complete negotiations on drug issues by March 1. Thus far, the sides have committed only to discussing Mitchell's recommendations that are subject to bargaining. Selig says he has adopted all the other suggestions made by the Boston Red Sox director.

The players' association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Selig hinted that rather than turning testing over to an outside body, baseball would seek to modify its current system. In his report, Mitchell suggested the administrator could serve for a fixed term and could be removed only for good cause.

"With refinement, that structure could provide true independence for the program," Selig said.

Fahey challenged baseball's policy on human growth hormone. Baseball has pledged to adopt any validated urine test but does not test blood. Baseball said there is no commercially available validated test for HGH.

"Equally reprehensible is their blatant disregard for the truth," Fahey said. "Contrary to what they have told Congress this week, there is a reliable test for HGH; the storing of blood is practical, in fact has been effectively in practice for some time in World Anti-Doping Code-compliant testing."

The WADA statement said commercial kits for HGH blood testing are in development and that it offered to host a meeting between MLB and WADA experts. WADA also said baseball should store blood and serum, which might contain HGH that is more stable, for future testing.

Manfred pointed out that Fahey said an HGH blood test for commercial use is only in the process of being created.

"Mr. Fahey has elected to engage in semantic games that barely disguises WADA's own economic agenda," Manfred said.

Manfred said MLB expert Dr. Gary Green and Dr. Christiane Ayotte of WADA's Montreal laboratory expressed concerns about storing samples, claiming there were practical and technological issues. Manfred said WADA's labs don't even store serum.

"Perhaps Mr. Fahey should become more familiar with the operations of the WADA laboratories before attempting to criticize Major League Baseball," Manfred said.

In addition, Fahey criticized the increase in exemptions granted to baseball players to use drugs for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The total increased from 28 in 2006 to 103 last year, according to figures cited at the hearing.

Fahey cited that as a reason for shifting testing to an outside group. Manfred did not address ADHD.

"Accountability would ensure that no loopholes would exist to be exploited by management and players, such as the current system used to get around the amphetamines ban by making attention deficit disorder claims in order to have access to stimulants like Ritalin," Fahey said. "By not wholly embracing Sen. Mitchell's recommendations, especially those regarding independent third-party testing and HGH testing, MLB and the MLBPA are essentially thumbing their nose at those who care about the integrity of the game and the millions of youth who are impacted by what the professionals do."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press