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Jan. 17, 2005

Baseball finally toughens stance on steroid use

by Michael Bushnell, Page Editor
With last Thursday's announcement by MLB commissioner Allan "Bud” Selig that the sport would radically toughen its stance on steroids in the game, he proved that the heads of the game were not so ignorant to the problem of performance-enhancers in the game, after all.

After the shame and embarrassment stemming from Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds, two of baseball's biggest stars, admitting their steroid use, the league had no choice but to toughen their stance on cheating in their game. Not only are the new rules much harsher and effective, they should help instill a peace of mind in fans who may think that all power hitters are bulked up on drugs.

The agreement reached between the owners and players stipulates random testing, and suspensions upon the first positive test for steroids. Before, a first positive test meant that all the player would face was "counseling,” and there wasn't even testing at all in 2004, the first year of the plan.

An intervention won't deter someone from cheating, especially if there isn't testing for an entire year. Public and permanent humiliation would stop cheating. The testing before would be on pre-set, public dates, which defeated nearly all the purpose of drug testing. Now, testing is random, and year round. Cheaters can't hide anymore.

This sport has made other moves recently that were designed to cover the behinds of those involved (i.e. the quick 180 on the D.C. stadium deal), and in that respect its sad that it took so long for the Players Union heads to give in to this legislation.

Donald Fehr and Gene Orza have led the union for years, turning it into arguably the best and most effective union in the United States. But in doing that, they have rightfully made themselves look foolish over and over again.

It took Fehr getting publicly lambasted on Capitol Hill by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to get his attention at all about steroids. The situation was eerily similar to two years earlier, when Selig was humiliated at a Congressional hearing by former Gov. Jesse Ventura (I-MN) about contraction. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he planned to introduce a bill this month to stop steroid use in baseball if the sport hadn't passed the rule it did last week.

Why did it take such harsh rhetoric to get Orza and Fehr to give in to Selig, who had said he wanted this steroid policy for a long time? If you ask Fehr, he would likely have told you that he felt he was representing the best interests of his clients, Major Leaguers.

Well, that may not have been true after all. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that in 2002, a USA Today survey of Major League Baseball players said that 79% of them would accept outside, independent and random testing.

7% of big leaguers tested positive for steroids last year, when the old plan was going to be implemented. What could have possibly given Orza and Fehr the idea that the 93% that was clean would want to protect the vast minority of dirty players?

At least there is a much tougher policy now, and Commissioner Selig did a great job in finally getting the Players Union leaders to give in to this testing. The sport saw a remarkable resurgence at the box office and on TV last year, and without MLB getting tough on steroids, the shame of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) scandal likely would have undid all the progress in the game's remarkable resurgence.

Ah, yes, BALCO. The shame of Bonds' link to the steroid scandal in San Francisco likely moved this policy into rapid movement. Although nobody in baseball will admit that BALCO played a role in this stricter legislation in the game getting through, there is little doubt in my mind that it had a large effect on the quick ratification of the new policy.

The policy of old was a sham. Even though many say that Bonds' records should have a dreaded asterisk next to them, technically, since there was no testing for the illegal 'roids he took, Bonds could rightfully claim that he broke no rules since he didn't get caught for any violations. Now, this plan holds all players accountable the first time they try to cheat and hurt the sanctity of the sport.

It took months of work, and lots of BALCO related embarrassment, but the baseball heads finally got it right. This new steroid policy is just what the game needed, and it couldn't have come at a better time.



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  • Isamu Bae on January 19, 2005 at 5:12 AM
    About time baseball caught up with the rest of the world. Sheesh.
  • bryan (View Email) on May 10, 2005 at 10:29 AM
    do you think players should have a longer suspension than ten days. Compared to 164 a year thats nothing. Selig should put a foot down and make the suspension longer.
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