With Congress threatening to step in, the policy's approval by the executive board of the MLBPA made it official. The policy, which stipulates harsher penalties than those put in place last season, was already approved by owners in November.
The new rules provide for a 50 day suspension for the first offense, a 100 day suspension for the second, and a lifetime ban for the third. The previous rules featured suspensions of 10 days, 30 days, and 60 days, respectively. Like the old policy, suspensions under the new policy will be without pay.
In addition to toughening punishment for steroid usage, the new rules will also account for amphetamine testing. First offenses will result in mandatory re-testing, second offenses in a 25-game suspension, and third offenses in an 80-game suspension.
MLBPA head Donald Fehr emphasized that because of a lack of objections to the new policy, not every player needed to vote to put it into place. "We discussed [the policy] so much with the players that there is no need for [a vote]. The executive board has the authority, anyway. There was no opposition," Fehr said in an Associated Press article.
Particularly after the Senate hearings regarding steroids, in which many current and former baseball players testified, Congress made it clear that the MLB must take usage of illegal substances more seriously. Fehr confirmed that pressure from Congress was a major factor in changing how baseball treats steroid usage. "Obviously the fact [that] the issue was front and center had a role to play in it. Nobody preferred legislation," he told AP.
The new rules, if they prove effective, should help eliminate baseball's reputation of turning a blind eye to the presence of steroids. Under the rules implemented earlier this year, several major- and minor-league players were suspended last season, including legend and fan favorite Rafael Palmeiro. The approval of the policy marks one of the first times in recent years that players and owners have not clashed over changes to professional baseball.