Union, owners to resume talks in wake of Mitchell report
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- While lawyers for players and owners plan to resume discussions on the Mitchell report's recommendations for improving the sport's drug testing, the No. 3 official of the players' association said Monday that the "current program is working fine."
Union general counsel Michael Weiner and former players Bobby Bonilla and Stan Javier were among a group that met for about 75 minutes with the Houston Astros on Monday to discuss the ramifications of the report and other issues.
Players and owners have had a series of meetings on the Mitchell report, which includes recommendations for increased frequency in testing and more independence for the program administrator, who is jointly selected by the sides and was added in 2006.
"Senator Mitchell recognized that the independent program administrator is a helpful step," Weiner said. "He made some other suggestions as how we can improve the process and we are discussing those with the commissioner."
Weiner said the union will consider Mitchell's request for more frequent testing but likes the system the way it is. Commissioner Bud Selig adopted all of Mitchell's suggestions that management could begin without the union's consent.
"We've had some good exchange," Weiner said. "The current program is working fine and commissioner Selig has acknowledged that. Senator Mitchell made a recommendation for more testing and we will consider that. I think our current testing regimen is fine."
Currently, each player is tested within five days of arriving at spring training and is tested one additional time each year. There also are 600 random tests, of which up to 60 may be conducted during the offseason.
Weiner said the union believed there was adequate testing in the offseason, but said that's another issue players will discuss with the owners.
Weiner and his team were starting to make the rounds to all spring training camps. Union head Donald Fehr was absent because he is scheduled to testify on Wednesday before a House subcommittee looking into drug use in all sports. He is to fly to Florida on Wednesday night, according to a memo given out to players.
The union representatives arrived amid buzz that Roger Clemens was going to show up at Astros camp to work with minor leaguers, including his oldest son, Koby, a catcher in the Astros' system. The Rocket was a no-show, but Koby said his father planned to come there soon.
Two weeks ago, Clemens testified before a House committee, defending himself against drug allegations leveled by former personal trainer Brian McNamee. McNamee said he injected Clemens with human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001, but Clemens has repeatedly denied the accusations.
Weiner said the efforts lawmakers have made have brought steroids to the forefront, but he said the problems associated with PEDs and moving past them can be solved at the negotiating table.
"Congress has taken an interest in this matter and that helps everybody focus on it," Weiner said. "I think both parties have been able, in collective bargaining, have been able to address this. I think that is the best way to come up with a program that is both tough and fair."
Weiner acknowledged that steroids will be an unavoidable topic in every stop on their tour. He would not divulge how much it was talked about in the meeting with the Astros.
"By no means will that dominate the discussion," Weiner said. "We'll talk about free agency, salary arbitration, benefit plans, all various aspects of union affairs."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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