Fehr rejects drug-use suspicion talk
JUPITER, Fla. -- Baseball union head Donald Fehr began his annual tour of spring training camps Monday with steroids back in the spotlight.
"Everybody understands that there were things which happened in the early part of the decade which we wish hadn't, that that's not the case anymore," Fehr said after meeting with Florida Marlins players.
"We fixed the problem and we need to look forward, as Bud has said many times," he said.
Fehr said he didn't think commissioner Bud Selig will take disciplinary action against Alex Rodriguez, who admitted Feb. 9 that he used a banned substance from 2001 to 2003. Rodriguez confessed two days after Sports Illustrated reported he was on a list of 104 players who tested positive in the 2003 survey. Selig said Rodriguez shamed the sport.
Testing in 2003 was to be confidential. Fehr rejected the suggestion all players in 2003 are under suspicion because 104 of them tested positive.
"If that's the judgment, it seems to me that is entirely wrong," Fehr said. "We know what happened in 2003. The number of positives we had was slightly over 5 percent. That means that slightly over 94 percent was negative."
Pitchers Curt Schilling and Brad Lidge are among those who have said all 104 players should be identified, but Fehr said the union will try to ensure the list of names remains confidential. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the fate of the list and test specimens, which were seized by federal agents in April 2004.
Marlins camp was Fehr's first stop on a five-week tour of major league teams. He said no player has told him the seized list should be made public.
"The agreement we had was that information related to 2003 was supposed to be and should remain confidential, and we believe it should," Fehr said.
"Not everybody in the game was doing it, so how can you say it was the steroids era?" Helms said.
He said he would favor identifying those who tested positive only if the names are going to surface the way Rodriguez's did.
"Two or three years down the road, if the 103 players are going to be leaked out in a way it shouldn't be leaked, I think the player would probably rather get it over with now," Helms said.
Test samples and records were supposed to be destroyed, but Fehr said the players' association didn't have enough time to make arrangements after the results became final Nov. 13, 2003.
"To do this right away -- there are labs, there are samples and there are records," Fehr said. "And we were advised [on Nov. 19] that there was a grand jury subpoena. Once that happens, you can't do it."
Fehr said media coverage in the wake of the Rodriguez case has been incomplete and often overlooks amendments to the joint drug agreement in recent years.
"So far as I know, there is not a hint or suggestion that there is anything inappropriate or that it's not functioning right or that it isn't doing the job in 2005, '06, '07 or '08," Fehr said. "And somehow that gets lost in what I can basically call the sensationalism around what happened five years ago."
Major League Baseball has left the appeal up to the union's lawyers, preferring to concentrate on the present.
"The commissioner has said repeatedly our program is the most comprehensive program in professional sports and we believe it's been effective in reducing the use of performance-enhancing substances," said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations.
The union last week sent a memo to players advising them to be careful "answering questions sparked by the media frenzy." Fehr said he doesn't think recent events have damaged the union.
"Public perception is whatever it is," he said. "Unions have been in disfavor in this country for virtually 30 years. The question is: Does any of this stuff damage the union's standing with the players? And I don't think so."
Marlins player representative Andrew Miller said the confidentiality of drug tests in 2003 isn't a major topic in the clubhouse because the team is so young.
"For the guys that are in this locker room right now, it's not as big an issue as it would be in more veteran clubhouses," said Miller, 23. "Us young guys will sit back and let it unfold and try to say the right things."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press