Commish dismisses IOC chief's conditions

Updated: July 12, 2005, 8:47 PM ET
Associated Press

DETROIT -- Major League Baseball will not agree to the changes demanded by the International Olympic Committee for reinstating the sport for the 2016 Games.

The IOC voted Friday to kick out baseball and softball following the 2008 Beijing Olympics. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the sports would be eligible to reapply in 2009, but they could not be reinstated for the 2012 London Games.

Rogge said baseball, which became a medal sport in 1992, would be reinstated only if it allows its best players to compete in the Olympics and adopts tougher anti-doping rules.

"I was saddened by what the Olympics did. Do I believe it will affect the way the sport is run? No," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said before Tuesday night's All-Star game.

While professionals played in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, only players not on 40-man major league rosters were eligible. During a question-and-answer session with the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Selig said sending top stars to the Olympics was not possible.

"I'm not going to stop the season," he said. "There is no set of circumstances for me to be able to say to teams in late August, 'Well, now, take two weeks off guys. We'll see you all except 20 or 25 people, whatever numbers there are, that are going to play for either the United States or for the other countries.' That's just not practical. In the heart of pennant races, this is just absurd."

Selig said the steroid issue "wasn't a valid reason" for the IOC to cite.

"There are a lot of rumors about how they operate and what they think about America and so on and so forth," he said. "I can't quantify those things, but I am confident today in telling you that the World Cup, the World Classic, will be so big that they will change their outlook on why baseball should be in the Olympics."

Major League Baseball and its players' association announced plans Monday for a 16-nation World Baseball Classic in March, a tournament likely to be played again in 2009 and each four years after that.

"I don't think any of us today understand how big this is going to be," he said.

Selig awaits a response from the players' union to his April proposal to increase penalties for positive steroid tests to 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. The current penalties, which began in March, are 10 days for a first offense, 30 for a second, 60 for a third and one year for a fourth. After that, the commissioner can decide.

Several congressmen have pushed for federal legislation that would mandate tougher standards, and they criticized Selig and union head Donald Fehr at a hearing during spring training that included Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro.

Six major league players have tested positive this year, but no top stars.

"Is the current program working? It is in my judgment," Selig said. "But I believe there is a deeper issue involved here, and I saw it in the eyes of some of those players on March 17.

"I believe there is an integrity issue involved here. I believe the integrity issue transcends whether this program is working or not. That is a question that is academic as far as I'm concerned. I believe that we must create everywhere the understanding that we mean to rid this sport of steroids, that we are not kidding. And the perception that we don't mean it is there."

Because players are spread out and frequently traveling, the union has said it needs time to formulate a response.

"I understand their process is a little more fragmented than ours," Selig said. "They know I am anxious. I think time is running on us."

Selig said if players don't agree to tougher rules, he would favor legislation.

"We should never let a third party do what we have to do," he said. "It sets bad precedent."

Selig also defended San Francisco's Barry Bonds, who testified before a federal grand jury investigating illegal steroids distribution. Bonds, who has not been indicted, is 52 homers shy of Hank Aaron's career record of 755 but has not played yet this season while recovering from knee surgery.

"Barry hasn't been convicted of anything. It's unfair at this point," he said of those who criticize the outfielder. "The sport is having a great year. Has Barry's absence helped or hurt? I don't know, I really don't know."

On other topics, Selig said:

  • The status of Pete Rose, whose application for reinstatement to baseball has been pending since 1997, has not changed in the past year.

  • Remarks by Rep. Tom Davis critical of billionaire George Soros won't be considered as baseball weighs offers for the Washington Nationals.

  • The Florida Marlins remain confident they will be able to assemble financing for a new ballpark.

  • Whether New York investor Stuart Sternberg, who last year bought 48 percent of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, takes over control from managing general partner Vince Naimoli is "a thing that he and Vince Naimoli are going to have to work out."

  • The 2008 All-Star game will be in an American League city following NL sites the next two years [Pittsburgh and San Francisco].

  • Major League Baseball expects revenue will be $4.5 billion to $4.6 billion this year and has more than $3.5 billion in debt.

  • He hopes to shorten the Home Run Derby, which took 3 hours, 3 minutes Monday night.

  • The "debt-service rule does not serve as a [salary] cap, does not inhibit people's spending."


    Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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