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Players union proposes new steroids plan

It includes testing for amphetamines

By Dan Connolly

sun reporter

September 27, 2005

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Although the Major League Baseball Players Association's new steroids plan isn't as stringent as the one proposed by the commissioner's office, it does add the highly controversial and reportedly oft-used amphetamines to the banned list.

The proposal, detailed in a letter by union chief Donald Fehr, also includes lengthening the penalty of a first failed drug test from 10 days to 20 games with the possibility of it being lowered to 10 or increased to 30 depending on an arbiter's findings.

If accepted, the plan would begin in 2006.

"That's something a little more fair. I think what we're doing is working, but obviously it's another step in the right direction," said Orioles right fielder and union representative Jay Gibbons. "Doubling it is good. I think 10 is a little light. ... You can do without a guy for 10 days, but 20, you're kind of hurting your ballclub, too."

A second positive steroid test would trigger an increase from 30 days to 75 games, with the possibility an arbitrator could increase it to as many as 100 games or lower it to as few as 50 games, according to the proposal.

In addition, the union suggests the commissioner could impose "such discipline as you believe appropriate including a permanent ban" for a third positive test, "provided that it is consistent with just cause and subject to [an arbiter's] review."

The commissioner's office, however, still believes the union's new proposal is too lenient.

"Twenty games are not enough," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "Also, the union's proposal is not three strikes and you're out. It is three strikes and maybe you're out."

The release of the union plan comes days before Fehr, commissioner Bud Selig and the union heads and commissioners of the NFL, NBA and NHL testify at tomorrow's congressional hearings on steroids in sports on Capitol Hill.

Fehr, however, said he thought it was important to release the information now before Sunday's end of the baseball regular season, not because of the pending hearing.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the plan is the union's inclusion of testing for amphetamines - or "greenies" as they are commonly referred. Seen as a hole in the current drug policy, the new plan allows for first-time offenders of amphetamine use to receive treatment. Discipline would follow after a second offense.

Amphetamines have been considered the prescription drug of choice for ballplayers, who have used them over the years as a boost during a grueling 162-game season.

"Its tough to say [what the ban's impact will be]," said Orioles left fielder Eric Byrnes. "I'm not quite sure how widespread the usage of amphetamines is. I don't think it is going to be that big of a deal."

If greenies are on the banned list, some players will find something else for a temporary boost, something that could be healthier for them, Byrnes suggested.

"Guys are always going to look for the edge. ... " Byrnes said. "The idea is just when you play 162 games, you want to be up and sharp for each and every one of them, but obviously I think if it is a potential health risk, I think it is a good idea to deal with it."

Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said greenies have been around "for longer than I even knew."

He said he never used them as a player. "I was always afraid I might run out on the field with all my clothes off or something," he said.

Now that the union is including amphetamines as a potential banned substance, Perlozzo joked that caffeine use around the major leagues could spike.

"Guys are going to drink their coffee," Perlozzo said.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com
The Associated Press contributed to this article.