SBJ/January 24 - 30, 2005/Opinion

Steroid policy has promise, if MLB’s union comes along

Baseball’s half-a-loaf steroid policy is the product of many bakers. Credit for the long-overdue change is due to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, politicians such as President Bush and Sen. John McCain, and players who see the risks that performance-enhancing drugs pose to the integrity of the game and to their own health.

It’s significant that the steroid-testing policy was negotiated by the commissioner’s office and the players’ union outside the established collective-bargaining process. The MLBPA is the strongest and most aggressive union in U.S. sports, and for many years it was inconceivable that the union would make any concession in this style.

That the union agreed, in effect, to reopen the contract is a reflection of player pressure on the issue. While players were leading, the union leadership seemed reluctant to go too far. Critics say the drug ban should be stronger, but union chief Don Fehr was quoted thusly: “I will be surprised if over time this [new policy] doesn’t take care of the problem virtually completely.”

The ability of management and the union to come together on a steroid policy suggests it may be possible for the two sides to compromise on other matters for the good of the game. But the foot-dragging by the union leadership suggests it won’t be easy.

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