Report: MLB, players tentatively OK outside administrator

Updated: April 10, 2008, 7:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Major League Baseball and the players union have tentatively agreed to have an outside administrator oversee baseball's drug-testing program, The New York Times reported, citing two lawyers with knowledge of the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The sides established a third-party administrator when they amended their drug plan for the second time in November 2005, and they split authority between the administrator and baseball's Health Policy Advisory Committee, which has two members from each side.

The overseer would be appointed to serve for a set period of time and would have protections from dismissal, according to the report.

The tentative agreement comes as baseball and its players union continue to work on adopting the recommendations of ex-Sen. George Mitchell's report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

The agreement would not be a sweeping overhaul of the program, however, as ESPN.com has learned that Dr. Bryan Smith is expected to continue in his role as the independent administrator for the drug testing program.

Under the proposal, Smith, a North Carolina-based physician, would be given additional authority and his position made more independent of the union and the commissioner's office.

In his report, Mitchell said baseball's anti-drug program needed more independence and year-round testing, echoing the concerns of anti-doping experts about MLB's drug testing policy.

Currently, MLB and the players' union both appoint two representatives to a health policy advisory committee to run its drug-testing program. A fifth member can be appointed to break deadlocks.

Players and owners would be toughening drug rules for the third time since their initial agreement in August 2002. The sides also made changes in January 2005, when sanctions for first offenders were instituted, and in November 2005, when the penalty for an initial positive test was increased from 10 days to 50 games.

Baseball players and owners also plan to keep oversight over drugs of abuse with a joint union-management body, the Associated Press reports.

ESPN.com investigative reporter Mike Fish and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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