Steroids still a hot topic

Three announcements were made by Commissioner Bud Selig on Thursday and none drew more attention than the new steroid policy adopted by Major League Baseball. The other news seems minor in comparison; A deal between MLB and what amounts to Minor League Baseball and a new owner in Milwaukee.

Commisioner Bud Selig: We today ratified a PBA agreement, with the National Association, a 10-year agreement. And I'm going to call on Jimmie Lee Solomon, who did a great job with the National Association people, to brief you on that agreement.

You know, I just want to say, in 1992 when I took over, we had a very, very tense, tough relationship with the National Association. It was, I think, that's probably an understatement as you'd all agree. We've come a long way, and just to have completed this agreement, I'm proud of both parties and I thank all of you.

Jimmie Lee Solomon: I'm here with Pat O'Connor, and Mike Moore the president could not be here today. He had minor health problems but he wished he could have been here. I also want to introduce the rest of the minor league negotiating team that negotiated: We have Sam Bernabie of the Iowa Cubs, we have Dave Elmore, Colorado Springs, Joe Fienes with the Trenton club and Bill Glaston.

On behalf of Major League Baseball and the National Association I am pleased to announce the ratification today of a new 10-year professional baseball agreement going through the year 2014. This new agreement was the product of nearly a year of negotiating by the two groups. On side of the Major Leagues with myself, Chuck Armstrong of the Mariners, Jerry Bell of the Twins, John Moore of the Padres, Bob Graziano of the Dodgers.

The agreement with 163 minor league affiliates, enhances our revenue-sharing arrangements, provides Minor League game fees to the Baseball Channel which starts in 2005, provides a partnership with selected sponsorship and marketing initiatives and designates MLB fan stats to the media, or fans as we call it; facilitates another agreement, that will provide enhanced Web-hosting services, online merchandising and ticket sales.

Our partnership has enjoyed a long and fruitful tenure. We look toward to continue this relationship in standing for many years to come.

Pat O'Connor: On behalf of the Mike Moore and our board of trustees and the member clubs, we are excited to be here today to join in this announcement.

This agreement, historic in length, is also historic in scope. It will enable us to take the two halves of this industry and form one force moving forward to provide the facilities and the venues necessary for player involvement to ensure Major League Baseball stars of tomorrow, but also enhance and provide stability to our clubs in the business of doing baseball, which has become equally critical to us.

We are very excited about the BAM (ph) opportunity, it will put us into the next stratosphere of what we need to do as an industry and we are equally happy to continue our relationship with Major League Baseball.

The Commissioner mentioned fact that we have come a long way in 12 years. I think this sets us up for a continuing relationship that's unmatched in our history and in its 100-plus year history. We are excited to be here.

I thank the Commissioner and his staff. Jimmie Lee is a worthy adversary. He and I have done two of these, I'm not sure how many more of them we have in us, but we are excited about this. We think it's going to be good for baseball, but most importantly it's going to be good for us as an organization to be able to serve the needs of Major League Baseball from a player development standpoint, and then continue to provide baseball the grass roots of America which we have done for over 100 years.

Commisioner Bud Selig: The next item is the sale of the Milwaukee Brewers that was unanimously approved today. And I said to the clubs during the presentation that to me personally, and Wendy also spoke to the clubs, that it's the end of a 40-year journey, and that if somebody would have told a 29-, 30-year-old kid back in 1963 and 64 that the journey would take four decades, that is pretty remarkable.

But I'm very pleased to introduce the new owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Mark Attanasio, welcome.

Mark, I will say this a note of levity. Mark, we have a custom, and when he came into the meeting room today, got a standing ovation. Let me assure you, it will be the last one you get for a long time. (Laughter.)

Mark Attanasio: A definite first for me, that ovation, and I guess the last.

Anyway, on behalf of myself and our new ownership group, which by the way, is a mix of some of the preexisting owners, older owners and the new owners I brought in, we just want to express our immense gratitude to the Commissioner, Wendy, to their family and their partners for their stewardship of baseball in Milwaukee in the last 35 years.

Through their efforts, they brought Major League Baseball back to Milwaukee, they have ensured through their efforts, including building a state-of-the-art stadium that Major League Baseball will be in greater Milwaukee for decades to come. This is an opportunity which is very, very exciting to me, and I think it's a terrific opportunity for our whole group and I wanted to thank them for that.

I mention, also, in my first meeting, some of the leadership that the Brewers have had for the last 35 years, and I look forward to working with the Commissioner and all of the officials at Major League Baseball in the years to come.

Q. When does this officially begin?

Mark Attanasio: I think technically tomorrow. All of the paperwork is signed and from a process standpoint, the approval had to come today and now that the approval is in, we will release the document and the transaction is closed.

Rich Levin: The Commissioner will now make another announcement, and Donald Fehr is on the conference call and he will have some comments, as well.

Commisioner Bud Selig: 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.

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.

I want to thank Don Fehr, who is on this call, and he had a long, scheduled trip and he's really gone out of his way. And I also really appreciate Steve Fehr being here. The cooperation between the parties has been just terrific and I want to thank them publicly for that. They addressed the subject midterm when they had no obligation to do so.

I also want to thank President Bush for bringing national attention to this issue during last year's State of the Union Address, and for his constant help and reminders of how bad the steroid situation was and why we should do something, so I'm very grateful.

I want to thank all of the congressional leaders who made performance-enhancing substances a priority and helped us reach this agreement.

I will now ask Rob Manfred to come out up and outline the details of our new drug-testing program, and Don will make his comments. And Don, again I want to thank you for being on the call. Afterwards, we're going to take questions first from the media here in Arizona and then those on the conference call.

Rob Manfred: Good afternoon. I think the best way to summarize the new agreement is to talk about four significant areas of change.

First of all, there will be a substantial increase in the frequency of testing of Major League players. We will continue to have a program under which at some point during the period from the beginning of spring training to the close of the championship season, each player on a randomly-selected date, on an unannounced basis; that is the player will have no notice of the test, each individual player will undergo at least one test.

In addition, we have added a program of random testing, to our agreement. At various points during the year random selections will be made. Players will be subject to additional tests in addition to the one mandatory test I've just described. Under the agreement, there will be no maximum number of tests per year. In other words, if a player has his one mandatory test, he's selected for a random test in the first pull of names, he will still be subject to selection again in the second random pull or the third random pull. So there's no maximum on the number of tests per year.

Secondly, we have extended the program so that the random component will also take place during the off-season. There will be off-season testing in baseball for the first time. That off-season testing will be applicable to all players regardless of where they live during the off-season.

In other words, testing will take place in all geographic areas, the Dominican, Venezuela, wherever we have players living during the off-season.

Third, we have expanded the list of substances that are banned under our agreement with the Players Association. All substances that are regulated now or in the future by the Federal government as steroids are banned under our agreement. We have added the substances that are referred to as pro hormones or precursors, including: Androstenedione, androstenediol, norandrostenediol, a whole list of pro hormones, human growth hormone will be banned under the program, ephedra, THG and designer steroids and diuretics and masking agents.

Fourth, there is a change in the disciplinary ramifications for positive tests. For the first time, we will have discipline for first-time offenders under the drug program. Such offenders will be suspended for ten days. All of the suspensions under this program are without pay. For the second offense, a 30-day suspension will be imposed. For the third offense, a 60-day suspension. And the fourth offense, the suspension will be for one year.

I, too, would like to echo what the Commissioner said; that the Players Association was forthcoming with respect to this negotiation. It was another positive negotiation, at least from my perspective, following up on 2002. Steve Fehr, Mike Weiner, Don Fehr, Gene Orza all participated, and I really appreciated their efforts in that regard. I don't know if Don or Steve, if there's anything you'd like to add?

Donald Fehr: Thanks, Rob. And thanks, Bud and before I mention this, I'd just like to congratulate, I suppose, Bud on the sale of the Brewers. The reason I say "suppose" is I know that after all of this time and all of the heart and soul that you've put into the club after all of these years, it must be a little bit of a bittersweet moment for you, but hopefully there's just great things ahead.

On the steroid issue, let me just make a couple of brief comments. As has been indicated, we had no obligation legally midterm to address this subject. What we had was an agreement in place that as you know from my prior comments, we thought would prove effective, and indeed in the first year program testing did -- we did have evidence of very considerable improvement.

But you learn over time, as I indicated in the remarks I made a month ago, at our executive board meeting in Scottsdale or in Phoenix, I guess, and you gain experience with it. And given that, and some of the other things which occurred and the players were willing to revisit the issue, we've been in discussions for a number of months; and we were able to reach an agreement, which I'm sure the players will ratify and will be in place for the 2005 season.

Q. Are the out-of-season tests unannounced or are they announced as in track and field?

Rob Manfred: The out of season testing will be similarly unannounced as is our in-season testing.

Q. Don, this is for you. If you could go into a little bit more detail about your conversation with the players, with the membership, and what they came to you and said they wanted in terms of their desires, what they wanted to see happen?

Donald Fehr: I think as all of you know, we are ordinarily very reluctant to specifically discussion our conversations with the membership. Those are confidential and they have an expectation that they will remain confidential. So it's a matter of practice that we don't.

In a general sense, however, I can say as follows. 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.

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.

Q. In terms of random testing in the off-season, what percentage of the Major League players will be tested in the off-season?

Rob Manfred: We are in the process, under the agreement, the House Policy Advisory Committee, which is joint body with the Players Association, has a responsibility for administering the testing protocols, and we are in the process of finalizing those protocols. I just can't give you a firm answer to that. I will tell you that our agreement is that it will be a significant number of off-season tests.

Q. It seems like new steroids are constantly being created, is there any provision to anticipate to try to be ahead of the curve when that happens?

Rob Manfred: There are two provisions, at least two provisions in the agreement that are relevant. First of all, to the extent that a new substance is discovered that is regulated as a steroid, it is automatically banned under this agreement. We don't have to go back and negotiate over there. There's language which adds it to the banned list.

In addition, the House Policy Advisory Committee has authority to add substances to the banned list during the term of the agreement. So we tried to be forward-thinking in terms of keeping up with the evolving science.

Q. I guess this is for Rob. How does this agreement compare with the Minor League agreement, and how does this compare with agreements in other sports?

Rob Manfred: Let me do the Minor League agreement first. I think that this agreement is comparable to the Minor League agreement in terms of its overall strength. There are differences. Obviously in the Minor Leagues, there's a specific number of tests per year that you cannot exceed. There are different discipline levels.

But again, you know, for example, on discipline levels, economic ramifications of discipline at the Major League level are much more significant than they are at the Minor League level. So on balance, I think the two policies are fairly comparable.

In terms of other professional sports, I believe this policy -- I do believe that other professional sports is the accurate measure against which we should be judged; that this is as good as any policy in any professional sport.

Q. The Commissioner said this is an important first step. What are you missing? What's the next step?

Rob Manfred: He said it was an important step, I believe. The Commissioner's comments and he can explain them, you know, this is an evolving area. Obviously we made an agreement in 2002; circumstances changed. Our relationship with the Players Association and the players view of the world was such that we were able to respond to those changed circumstances; and we recognize, you know, apropos the question earlier, this is an area that will continue to evolve, and hopefully we'll be flexible enough to evolve with it.

Q. The Olympics sports banned athletes for two years the first time they were found to be using steroids. Why didn't baseball follow that model?

Rob Manfred: There are really important differences between professional sports and a situation in the Olympic movement.

Most important is that the athletes in our sport are organized and have certain rights under Federal law in terms of bargaining; whereas there is no such organization that represents Olympic athletes.

But beyond that, the whole context is different. You know, an Olympic athlete competes erratically over a period of time. Our athletes are out there every day. There are very large dollars associated with the types of suspensions that are in our program, and frankly, we feel that we have a program that is well-designed to meet the needs of our industry.

Donald Fehr: Let me just respond very briefly on that. First of all, we don't comment on what people do in other sports generally, and the reason why is people that know sports have to make a decision on their own as to what they think the best is.

Our goal here was to try to come up with something that we believed would take care of the issue and we would solve it. The object is to stop it; the object is not to penalize for the sake of penalizing.

We saw, as I indicated before, very significant improvement last year under the old program. We think that with the enhanced testing, with the additional substances, with the enhances disciplinary levels -- and remember, that these suspensions for violation of the program is not only going to be without pay, it will be public and people will know, and that carries with it for that individual a lot more frequent went testing for that individual.

I will be very surprised if over time this doesn't take care of the problem virtually completely.

Q. Do we call this an amendment to the current agreement or replace the current agreement?

Rob Manfred: You asked a good question, and the other Mr. Fehr reminded me that I should utter the words draft by the Players Association and membership. Having said that, I think that it is best characterized as a stand-alone agreement at the end of the day. Mind you, when the drafting is all done, it will probably be a stand-alone agreement.

Q. And it will replace --

Rob Manfred: It will replace; that's correct.

Q. Basically another question which comes up constantly is you didn't open the Basic Agreement to do this; you had stipulations within the first agreement to be able to do this didn't you?

Donald Fehr: That's not quite right. There are provisions in the existing agreement to continue to have discussions and so on, but this was an effort made in which people said that there's no requirement that we do so. And even though people could not take action if the other side didn't want to bargain about it, each party decided that we would get together and we would bargain; and if we could reach an agreement, we would then have a new agreement, which is what happened. And so in a fashion, I suppose you could say that the agreement was opened because we were bargaining over subjects covered by the existing one.

Q. Do the owners have to vote on this, and when is the Players Association going to ratify?

Rob Manfred: I can ask the owner half. We ratified the agreement today under our processes. We had sufficient detail without the draft to be able to do that. Don will have to answer the other half.

Donald Fehr: We have preliminary approval from our executive subcommittee and for most members of the executive board. We have not been able to quite reach everybody. And we'll have to make a judgment once the drafting is complete as to whether we want to find a way to submit it to the players before spring training or at spring training for a player vote.

Q. Say a player tests positive, how soon before it's publicized, is there an appeals process before it's publicized what is the timing factor there?

Donald Fehr: Basically, when there is a test, and that goes through the lab processes and then you have to go through the confirmatory processes if it's positive. If there is a question as to whether or not the test was properly done or it's positive or, there's a question about the science, you look into that. There will be a procedure to deal with it. We still have to negotiate the final details. It will not take very long. There's an agreement that it will be expedited and it will be announced if the result is that it's positive. It's not an extended process in any stretch of the imagination.

Rob Manfred: I agree with Don about the timing, and I think the end product under the agreement would be an announcement that the particular individual had been suspended for violation of the joint drug agreement, very similar to the announcements that they use in other sports.

Q. For both Don and Rob, as far as the random nature of the program, do you have any concerns about perception, maybe if there's a guy with big build getting randomly tested a lot of times, as opposed to someone else with maybe a smaller frame not being tested so much?

Donald Fehr: You can have people have perception questions based on what they perceive the facts to be, but that will be almost universally -- those facts will be wrong. It could not arise the way you're suggesting for the following reasons.

The way it's going to work is that everybody will be tested once. It will be done randomly, and your name is going to come up once at some but you don't know when it's going to be. Secondly, we will have a series of additional random tests, and it's conceivable that an individual could come up on multiple occasions. You'll never have 100 percent certainty that you will not be tested again. You will get coincidences and that's the nature of how random draws work, but it won't be because anybody is arranging anything. That cannot happen under the procedure we have adopted. It will be completely fair with respect to all players.

Rob Manfred: What happens, literally in these random draws is there are numbers generated by a computer that are associated with each name. There would be no way to -- the computer does not know who is built how. It's just a number to the computer.

Q. It's been estimated that up to 80 percent of baseball players are using stimulants of some sort before each and every game. Can you talk to me a little bit about how much action, how tough action you are taking against stimulants, and can you name them specifically? And are there stimulants that are out of your policy?

Rob Manfred: Let me start with the premise of that question, and maybe I'll let Don do the second part.

I don't know how anybody could possibly make an estimate that based on what they would make an estimate that 80 percent of players are doing any form of substance stimulant or otherwise. Nothing in the testing that has been done in the industry would support the notion that that assertion is correct.

Donald Fehr: If you look at the existing Basic Agreement, you will see that there are a number of stimulants listed. We've added ephedra. The purpose of this negotiation was to deal specifically with the steroid and the muscle-enhancing matters, and that is what we did.

And I agree with Rob entirely on those kind of estimates. I think what you have there mostly are people that are looking to sensationalize a little bit.

Q. You mentioned four levels of discipline. At any point will a player face a lifetime ban? And secondly, how will this agreement affect players who have already admitted using and any records that they might hold?

Rob Manfred: There's a bunch of different questions there. The concept under the agreement is after the specified levels of discipline, the Commissioner would have authority to impose discipline consistent with notions of just cause, and that is the provision that was governed for, I guess it would be a fifth offense and beyond.

Commisioner Bud Selig: I have consistently said that we are not going to engage in any conjecture. There has been a lot of conjecture, but there has been -- there have been no players that have been convicted of anything or in any, way, shape, form or manner, and that's a question that if there's a necessity, I'll look at some day in the future, but certainly not today.

Q. My question is: Does this agreement also apply to minor league players?

Donald Fehr: I'll take a crack at that. This agreement affects the players under Major League contracts, and that is all players on the 40-man rosters, which would include obviously the players playing in the Minor Leagues, almost all of them in AAA on Major League contracts. All of our agreements covering substances have applied in that regard.

Rob Manfred: And the remainder of the Minor League players would be covered by a separate policy that's promulgated by the Commissioner that we refer to as the Minor League Drug Policy.

Q. Three questions. One on the human growth hormone, the science of it, testing for that is through blood and not urinalysis, and I was wondering if a blood test were permissible under this policy. Two, is creatine now banned under this policy? And three, last year you revealed that five to seven percent of the big league players tested positive, and I was wondering if you had a figure from this past season.

Rob Manfred: First of all, the state of the science on testing for human growth hormone is that people are working very hard both to have validated blood and urine tests. It is my understanding that there is not a validated test in either form. Our agreement is that when a validated urine test is available, we will use that test for human growth hormone. We will not be doing blood testing.

Creatine, the science of that, is that it is not a pro hormone. It has never been demonstrated to have performance-enhancing effects. It is not regulated by the Federal government as a steroid or pro hormone; and therefore, is not covered by our agreement. It is a nutritional supplement more akin to a food.

And under our agreement, we do not disclose individual or aggregate test results.

Q. Both Don and the Commissioner, if you could each answer this question. How would you characterize the effects that steroid use has had on the field over the past several years? Of course that depends on your assessment of how widespread it is, but to the extent they were used, what effects have they had on the game that people watch?

Donald Fehr: I personally don't know what, if any, effects that they have had, and any comments I made in that regard would be pure conjecture, which is not something I'm going to get into.

People will have their own views and make their own judgments, and like a lot of things in baseball, they will be talking about it as long as they want to be talking about it, I suppose.

Hopefully with this agreement in place, it won't be a question we have to worry about going forward.

Commisioner Bud Selig: I share those sentiments. There has been a lot of conjecture. I've talked to a lot of people, field personnel, others. You get different opinions.

I think really, in the end, what's important today is that we had a problem and we dealt with the problem, and we dealt with it through cooperation and to engage in speculation about maybe what did happen or didn't happen is really fruitless.

It would be, I think, only germane, frankly, if we had not taken action and allowed all of this conjecture and everything to go on.

Q. You indicated that the problem was bad, Mr. Commissioner, in your opening statement. Why was it bad? What is the manifestation of this problem to what people see on television? Commisioner Bud Selig: What I said and what I have been saying for a long time, going back to putting the minor league program in in 2001, that I regarded this as not only a health issue, but certainly you could say that it was an integrity issue in the sport.

I said over and over, and I'm sure that Don would agree with this, that the one thing that I found after talking with Dr. Tollman (ph) who is here who, is our medical advisor and has been extraordinarily helpful in all of this, as well as the team physicians and trainers, you knew what the effects of steroids were, and I felt an obligation, as I think both parties clearly did, is that some day, somebody could come and say, "Well, you people knew about this and you didn't do anything about it." As I often stated, that was something that I would have a very hard time living with, but the fact of the matter is, today, we did something about it.

Q. What are the effects? I don't mean to badger, I swear, but you said you know the effects of steroids. Instead of the media speculating, I want to ask you what in your experience is the effect of steroids.

Commisioner Bud Selig: I am not a doctor. I will let the doctors -- I have heard over and over again what happens. They have been written, they have been talked about, there's no question that they are a health hazard, but I'm not a doctor. I practice medicine without a license, I practice law without a license; I do a lot of things, but I'm not going to do anymore of that today.


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