Baseball set to strengthen steroid policy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Major League Baseball is expected to announce today a new steroid testing policy that would include penalties for first-time offenders.

The announcement will most likely come when baseball commissioner Bud Selig holds a news conference at the close of the quarterly owners meeting.

A first positive test would result in a suspension of up to 10 days and the penalties would increase to a one-year suspension for a fourth positive test, one high-ranking team official said, also on condition of anonymity. Under the previous agreement, a first positive test resulted only in treatment, and a second positive test was subject to a 15-day suspension.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said he anticipated confirmation of a deal by the end of the owners' meeting.

"It will be wonderful once it's done, but I don't want to pre-empt any announcement, and I certainly don't want to pre-empt all the work the commissioner has done on this, so I'll reserve my comments ..." he said.

In another matter at the close of the meetings, talks are expected between the Orioles and DuPuy over financial protections for Baltimore because of competition from a team playing in Washington.

Regarding the drug policy, DuPuy on Tuesday told MLB.com that the major leagues' new program "will be the best program in [professional] sports. Comparable to our minor league program."

The drug testing program in the minor leagues, which was created in 2001, calls for four unannounced tests per year - including the offseason. A first positive test brings a 15-game suspension. The screening also goes beyond steroids.

Last week on a Milwaukee radio show, Selig said: "We have been in very intense negotiations. I'm very confident in saying to you today we will have a very, very constructive, tough steroid policy very soon."

Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, declined to comment yesterday.

"I'm glad we could come to an agreement," said Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger, who was briefed on the deal yesterday. "It was the right thing to do. I think it was something that needed to be done, and I think players understand it needed to be addressed."

The sides spent the past month negotiating the deal after the union's executive board gave its staff approval to pursue an agreement on a more rigorous testing program.

"I think it's going to entail more testing, some out-season testing, yes, more in-season random testing and stiffer penalties," said New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a senior member of the union.

Players and owners agreed to a drug testing plan in 2002 that called for survey-testing for steroids the following year. Because more than 5 percent of tests were positive, random testing with penalties began last year.

A first positive test resulted in treatment. If a player tested positive again, he would have been subject to a 15-day suspension.

No player was suspended for steroid use in 2004.

Baseball has been in negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association since May on a new drug testing policy after President Bush appealed to athletes and pro sports leagues to wipe out the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in his State of the Union speech nearly a year ago.

But the talks lagged until December when The San Francisco Chronicle published leaked grand jury testimony in which two of baseball's biggest stars -San Francisco's Barry Bonds and the New York Yankees' Jason Giambi - admitted that they had used steroids.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is a member of baseball's executive committee, arrived in Arizona yesterday afternoon for the owners' meeting accompanied by the team's president, Joe Foss, and general counsel, H. Russell Smouse.

More talks between the Orioles and DuPuy over financial protections for the franchise are planned for today - after the owners meeting is adjourned. The sides have been negotiating since late September, when MLB decided to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington.

The last face-to-face meeting was Thursday in Baltimore, and the parties have spoken by phone several times since then, DuPuy said.

Neither Angelos nor DuPuy would characterize the progress of the talks, but both sides say they remain hopeful.

In a short meeting with reporters, DuPuy said the Executive Council did not talk about the negotiations with the Orioles. He did say, however, that the process of selling the Washington Nationals would begin within a week to 10 days.

"Slightly more than" six to eight groups have submitted applications to buy the team.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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