Baseball Announces New Steriod-Testing Policy

January 13, 2005 was a historic day for Major League Baseball and its relationship with the Major League Baseball Players' Association. Both parties came to an agreement in principle to alter the steroid and performance enhancing substance testing policy that governs baseball. The new policy is designed to discourage the use of performance enhancing drugs through more frequent random testing and the implementation of stricter penalties for those who are caught using performance enhancers.

The agreement comes on the heels of the now-famous BALCO Grand Jury investigation, which saw some of baseball's best players being compelled to testify. Some of that testimony was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle in early December. In that leaked testimony, it was revealed that former A's star and current Yankees' slugger Jason Giambi admitted to knowingly taking performance enhancing steroids. The testimony also revealed that San Francisco Giants' star Barry Bonds took steroids provided by his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, although Bonds claimed that he did not know that the supplements he received from Anderson were performance enhancers.

Before Thursday's agreement, the MLB policy on testing for performance enhancing drugs was widely considered to be ineffective, at best. Under the old policy, if a player was a first time offender, his only penalty would be a treatment program and his identity would remain sealed. A second offense would lead to a 15-game suspension. A player would have to fail the testing program five times before being subject to a one-year ban. The current steroid testing program, which began in 2004, has yet to yield a suspended player, despite suspicion of wide-spread abuse among baseball players.

The new policy will dramatically alter the testing landscape in baseball. First offenses will now result in a 10-game suspension and a second offense will result in a 30-day ban. The third offense will net a 60-day suspension and a one-year ban will result after the fourth offense. A fifth offense could result in a life-time ban or another penalty, which will be at the discretion of the Commissioner's Office. All suspensions will be without pay.

Players will be subject to at least one unannounced test on a random date during the season. A randomly selected group of players will be tested more frequently throughout the season and the off-season. The new agreement will still have to be ratified by all 30 teams and the members of the Players Association to take effect. If passed, the policy will take effect in 2005 and would not be up for renewal until 2008. In addition, the new policy, when teamed with federal legislation regarding performance enhancing substances, will extend the list of banned substances in regulated by baseball to include steroids, steroid precursors and designer steroids such as THG, as well as masking agents and diuretics.

"I am very pleased today to announce an historic agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. We have agreed on a new, much tougher drug-testing program, that is designed to rid our game of performance-enhancing drugs," Commissioner Bud Selig said at a press conference on Thursday. "I have been saying for some time that my goal for this industry is zero tolerance regarding steroids. The agreement we will describe today is an important step towards achieving that goal. We are acting today to help restore the confidence of our fans in our great game."

The president of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Donald Fehr, echoed the Commissioner's statements.

"Obviously this has been an issue which has demanded a lot of attention. There's been a lot of discussion both by and among players and with association staff. We put a program in 2002 after long, exhaustive meetings to see what would happen and we have all learned since then," Fehr said.

"Over the course of the last couple of years and the last year or so, especially, a somewhat of a different consensus perhaps is the best way to put it among the players emerged. They said that we can do this, we can move in this other direction. We can and should have penalties for first offenders. We do need to have a circumstance in which you don't have a guarantee that there will not be another test once the first one is given, and some other things. What you do, then, is you learn with experience over time and you move forward."

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