Baseball to begin imposing penalties for steroid use
By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer
November 14, 2003
NEW YORK (AP) -- Starting next year, steroid users in baseball will be subject to suspensions or fines.
Results of 2003's anonymous tests were announced Thursday and they confirmed what many in baseball suspected: Some players were taking more than vitamins.
Rumors regarding steroids had run high recently as bulked-up sluggers set all sorts of home run records. Stars such as Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa denied taking the drugs. But former MVPs Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti admitted they had done it before their careers ended.
``Hopefully, this will, over time, allow us to completely eradicate the use of performance enhancement substances in baseball,'' commissioner Bud Selig said.
Under baseball's labor contract that took effect on Sept. 30, 2002, testing with penalties begins after any season in which more than 5 percent of survey tests are positive. Of 1,438 anonymous tests this season, between 5 and 7 percent were positive.
``There's a slight disagreement to where in that spectrum the exact number falls,'' said Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association. ``It's a technical disagreement to the interpretation of the results.''
From now on, players who test positive will be identified to the commissioner's office and the union.
Starting next year, a first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.
The length of penalties would increase to a 25-day suspension or fine of up to $25,000 for a third positive test, a 50-day suspension or fine of up to $50,000 for a fourth and a one-year suspension or fine of up to $100,000 for a fifth. The suspensions would be without pay.
New York Mets reliever Mike Stanton didn't think steroid use had been that widespread.
``It does surprise me a little bit,'' he said. ``But the tests don't lie.''
The newly discovered steroid THG was not tested for, and baseball cannot retest because the samples weren't saved. But it already has been added to the banned list for next year.
The NFL, NBA and NCAA test for banned steroids and other prohibited substances, but the NHL does not. For substances other than steroids, baseball tests a player only if doctors agree there is cause.
Olympic athletes are subjected to out-of-competition testing, and far more substances are banned.
``A positive rate of 5 percent is hardly the sign that you have rampant use of anything,'' said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations. ``From our perspective, it's still a problem. We'd like to be at zero.''
Baseball has been testing players with minor league contracts for drugs since 2001 and in September announced that testing would expand to Latin American prospects next year. This year, 1,198 major leaguers were tested for steroids, and an additional 240 were selected for random tests.
``As a pitcher, I think it would be nice if they did get everybody who is on steroids and did get them off it,'' Oakland's Tim Hudson said.
Testing with penalties will continue until positive tests drop below 2.5 percent over a two-year period.
``I had no expectation one way or the other,'' Orza said. ``I did know the claims that put the pressure on the players to address this problem the way they did were wildly inflated.''
Said Minnesota outfielder Dustan Mohr: ``I'm kind of surprised it's not higher.''
``I think it's less than what people might think, but when you see a guy who puts on 20 pounds of solid muscle, it kind of raises your eyebrows,'' he said.
Some players, notably on the Chicago White Sox, had called for even more stringent testing.
``I guess if people want it bad enough they find their way around the system,'' Oakland pitcher Ted Lilly said. ``There's still other supplements and aids out there that aren't exactly steroids. If there's anything out there that can help, I'd imagine players would find it.''