Major League Baseball Announces New Steroids Policy
Baseball players and owners have reached an agreement on a tougher steroid-testing program, and the much-harsher penalties for players testing positive will include suspensions on the first offense. The agreement is expected to be announced Thursday from the owners’ meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark that the agreement will include the following components:
Stricter penalties: Penalties for players testing positive will be more severe than the current agreement. A source told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney that suspensions on the first offense will carry a maximum length of 10 games. The penalty would increase to a one-year suspension for a fourth positive test, a high-ranking official told the Associated Press 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. Only with a fifth positive test was a player subject to a one-year ban under the old plan.
Year-round random testing for all players: Every major league player will be tested at least once a year.
There are no stipulations requiring that a player be tested more than once. But an unspecified number of players will be selected at random to be tested numerous other times throughout the year. So unlike the current system, a player would not know, following his one mandatory test, that he had no future tests to worry about for the rest of the year.
Offseason testing: In the first two seasons of the agreement, testing took place only between the opening of spring training and the last day of the season. Testing for more substances: A large number of substances would be added to the list of banned drugs, including THG and various steroid precursors. The new agreement does not address the issue of stimulants.
Baseball will likely regard the suspensions for first-time offenses as a big step because steroids users are likely to be publicly identified. However, the penalty falls far short of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code, which has been adopted by most Olympic sports. It says the “norm” is two-year bans for a first positive test and a lifetime ban for a second, unless there are mitigating circumstances.
These are positive steps. I’m not a fan of forcing people to prove their innocence and have some qualms about the invasion of privacy this represents. However, professional athletes are paid handsome sums which depend on the public’s perception of integrity in the competition. Given the Balco scandal and the revelations that marquee players such as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi have used steroids–and former MVP Ken Caminiti died from using them– that was seriously coming into question.