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Suspensions, not fines, to be steroid test penalty

Sun Staff

Major league baseball players who fail steroid drug tests no longer will have the option of being fined instead of suspended, baseball's labor lawyer said yesterday.

Fines that ranged from $10,000 for a first failed drug test to up to $100,000 after the fourth infraction will be eliminated, according to Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations.

"We do have an agreement with [union head Donald Fehr] that the language after the disjunctive in the various disciplinary levels is going to be eliminated," Manfred told the Associated Press yesterday.

"It will be just the straight suspension, which everybody knew was going to happen anyway," Manfred said. "To the degree there was any doubt, I think this change should put to rest any concerns in that regard."

The "or clause," as it has been referred to, became a hot-button issue during Thursday's hearings before the House Committee on Government Reform.

Although Manfred explained that the language was a draft-error holdover from baseball's first drug-testing agreement in 2002 and hadn't yet been changed, several congressmen used the clause to illustrate their point that baseball's current drug policy lacks strong deterrents.

In addition to criticizing the "or clause," some members of Congress voiced opposition to the amount of the fines, saying that $10,000 is an insignificant penalty for a multimillionaire.

Baseball's new agreement had called for a 10-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine for a first positive test. A second positive was to result in a 30-day suspension or up to a $25,000 fine, a third in a 60-day suspension or up to a $50,000 fine and a fourth in a one-year suspension or up to a $100,000 fine.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who said continually throughout the hearings that he intended to suspend players for all positive tests, would determine the specific punishment after a fifth failed drug test.

Fehr told the committee Thursday he would have to discuss all proposed changes to the language with the players, who haven't yet approved the new deal. But Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, said yesterday: "The agreement still has to be ratified, but the negotiators have agreed to modify that language."

Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who spoke before the committee Thursday in Washington and held his own news conference Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla., said he didn't know about the fine provision until it was brought up at the hearings.

"My understanding of the 'or clause,' which was a linchpin of the arguments on Thursday, is it was there unbeknownst to the players in the extreme cause of a false positive," Schilling said Saturday. "I believe a false positive is a remote possibility at best. But it's very clear now that if someone is a positive they're done. They might still be able to play after the suspension, but they are forever labeled as a cheater."

Schilling said the provision was not something that concerned him or his fellow players.

"I don't think anybody knew about the 'or clause,' " he said. "And I don't think anyone cared to know about it."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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