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Selig Happy With New Drug-Testing Policy, Tougher Penalties For Positive Tests

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Selig gives the players association credit for passing tougher penalties
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig today lauded the league's new drug-testing policy, saying there is "no question we have the toughest testing program in American sports." MLB and the MLBPA on Friday announced increased testing protocols and penalties for use of PEDs. A first-time violation now yields an 80-game suspension, up from 50 games; a second-time violation warrants a 162-game suspension, up from 100 games; and a third violation remains a lifetime suspension. Players violating the policy also will be ineligible to play in the postseason that season or receive playoff shares. Appearing on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike," Selig said, "The players’ association played a very constructive, active role in that process, and I give them great credit.” He added, “Not only are the penalties stiffer, but if you really read the program carefully, there is no question that there are more things that people get penalized for. There are many more tests now. ... It is a manifestation of how well we have worked with the players’ association." Selig said of the 80-game ban for a first offense, "I would hope if you have any thoughts at all or brain in your head, you‘re not going to fool around." He added, "You go to 162, and now you’re really talking seriously" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 3/31). The new deal has been in development for more than a year, with talks beginning shortly after blood testing for HGH was added in January ’13. But last summer’s Biogenesis investigation amplified certain issues around the program. The changes also contain two provisions aimed at lessening problems around inadvertent ingestion of banned substances. Players will now have year-round access to supplements not on the banned list, and an independent arbitrator will have the ability to reduce suspensions if players can prove substances in question were not taken to enhance performance (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).

NEW TESTING EQUIPMENT USED: USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale noted MLB "not only stiffened its drug penalties, but for the first time will use the expensive Carbon Isotope Mass Spectrometry (IRMS), with at least one specimen from every player." The test, which "costs about $400 per person, was previously used only on a random basis, usually as a result of an elevated reading of the player's longitudinal profiling program." The IRMS test is "designed to detect anyone who uses performance-enhancing drugs within a two-week period, instead of only being detected within a 24-hour period." There is belief that the testing program, called the "most comprehensive in American sports history" by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, will "detect anyone who violates the drug agreement" (USATODAY.com, 3/28).

PLAYERS A DRIVING FORCE: In New Jersey, Bob Klapisch wrote the new drug policy "isn’t some draconian, unilateral proclamation that Selig cooked up in the middle of the night, daring the union to take him to court." Rather, an MLB official said, "Most of (the changes) came from the players themselves." Klapisch noted there was "no contractual incentive for the union to strengthen the policy," as the CBA does not expire until after the '16 season. The "only reason to do so was to root out the game’s rule breakers" (Bergen RECORD, 3/30). MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian said, “Players are tired of the general public’s perception that everybody is on steroids. They don’t want that out there anymore. So the players were just as big a part of this as management was." MLB Network's Tom Verducci: "In a short period of time, it has really flipped where the players now are being outspoken and their voices are being heard" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 3/28). Tigers P Max Scherzer said, "The players want a clean game from all angles. I think what we did was we addressed a lot of different areas where we needed to improve in our JDA. Through the leadership of [MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark] and the rest of the Players Association, we accomplished that" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 3/31). Indians 1B Nick Swisher: "We are making strides to let guys know that if you do take a chance of doing this, you will get caught." He added, "You break the law you've got to pay" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 3/29). Angels P C.J. Wilson: "I hope this is the padlock, and closes this chapter. We don't want to keep going through this" (MLB.com, 3/28). Red Sox P Jon Lester: "Obviously, the 50 games wasn't enough to maybe make these guys think twice about it. Hopefully 80 games takes enough money out of these guys' pockets. ... Hopefully this will weed out 99 percent of the guys" (ESPN.com, 3/29).

LEGACY BUILDER: MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal wondered if the new testing policy reflects the legacy late MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner left. Rosenthal: "It actually does, because his position ... was always that penalties and increased penalties, that was not enough. That was not enough of a deterrent. He was not even sure it was a deterrent." MLB Network's Bob Costas said former union leaders Marvin Miller, Don Fehr and Gene Orza all were "so completely wrong on this issue, and it is a demerit on their respective legacies." Costas: "It is a plus for the late Michael Weiner and now for the early tenure of Tony Clark." He noted players during the 90s and 00s either "wouldn’t say anything at all, it was just this code of silence, or it was like, ‘What’s the problem?’" Costas: "They were taking all of their cues from Fehr and Orza. ... Eventually, there were little cracks in that and now the whole thing is busted wide open, and for the better” ("MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 3/28).
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