NEW YORK — The first drug tests under a mandatory program for everyone connected with professional baseball except major league players will begin next month, Commissioner Peter Ueberroth has told club owners.
Ueberroth said in a memo to major league clubs Tuesday that minor league players and umpires would become the first to be examined, followed by a group including major league managers, coaches, trainers and umpires, plus office personnel at both levels.
The tests for the first group will go on until the end of the minor league season in September. The second group will be tested through November.
The program encompasses virtually everyone associated with baseball--about 4,000 people. Although major league players can voluntarily undergo drug testing as provided under the drug agreement between the owners and the players' union, they can't be forced to take the tests unless the players association approves the testing program.
The memo said the testing program is aimed at detecting users of cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, heroin and morphine, and will cost $400,000 to implement this year. It calls for urine samples to be collected randomly at ballparks and transported to two unidentified labs to be processed.
"What the tests will do is act as a deterrent," Ueberroth told The New York Times in an interview published Wednesday. "The problem will go down a lot from what it is, I believe."
Players testing positive would receive their regular salary, he said, but generally would not permitted to play until they had demonstrated over an unspecified period that they were not using drugs.
In a memorandum to the 26 club owners titled "Baseball's Drug Education & Prevention Program," Ueberroth laid the groundwork for the plan he first announced May 7. Details also included:
--Samples are to be coded, without names, and the results of all tests will be kept confidential. Clubs will not receive the results unless, or until, discipline or treatment is involved.
--There will be no penalties for initial positive test results, and those results will not become part of an employee's permanent employment record.