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Testing May Give Better Picture of Steroid Use

February 16, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Steroid use in baseball was a hot topic during the collective bargaining negotiations last season that produced the major leagues' first testing program for performance-enhancing drugs.

The initial phase of the program, part of the overall joint drug agreement between owners and the Major League Baseball Players Assn., is scheduled to begin during the exhibition season. Every player on 40-man rosters will be tested this season, and up to 240 players may be chosen randomly for a second test.

The Dodgers are ready to begin the process they believe will prove steroid use is not as widespread as some believe.

"We knew as a group it was something we needed to agree upon, we did that and now we're ready to show it's just not like some people think," catcher Todd Hundley said Saturday after workouts at Dodgertown. "You heard crazy numbers out there, that like seven out of 10 guys were on it, and it's not like that at all. The only way to prove it is to take the tests like we're going to do and get it over with."

Under guidelines of the program, "collectors" will contact players at ballparks, informing them they have been selected for initial and supplemental confidential tests, explaining the procedure of testing for the drugs that promote muscle growth and are available only by prescription.

Players selected for a second test will be tested up to seven days after undergoing the first test. If more than 5% of players test positive, a disciplinary component would be added to the program next season and remain in effect for at least two seasons.

Players would receive treatment if they tested positive again and would avoid being disciplined unless failing another test, triggering a 15- to 25-day suspension without pay. Further positive tests would prompt harsher discipline.

However, if fewer than 5% of players test positive this season, testing would resume each season without the possibility of suspensions as long as testing produces 5% or fewer positives. The program ends with the expiration of the basic agreement in 2006.

When the disciplinary component is not present in testing, no one other than the player will be informed of results. With discipline included, the commissioner's office, union and a club official will be notified of a positive first test. The general manager of a team would be notified if a player tested positive more than once, and the player must sign a release authorizing the general manager to reveal the results to other general managers seeking to acquire the player in a trade.

The commissioner's office also would issue a statement that the player has been suspended for violating the drug policy.

"I'm not going to lie and say there aren't steroids in baseball, but I don't think it's as extreme as people thought it was," said catcher Paul Lo Duca, the Dodger player representative last season.

"We're hoping that, once the testing starts, it's below what everybody thought and we can move on from steroids."

But will the policy end steroid use in baseball?

"Well, it's a step in the right direction, but it depends what we define as being effective," team physician Michael Mellman said. "Testing didn't eradicate steroid use in the Olympics or the NFL.

"What it does is, it gives us an opportunity to interact with [players] on the topic at more than just a peripheral level. There should be increased interest now with a testing policy and potential sanctions."

Rob Manfred, management's lead labor lawyer and an architect of the policy, hopes that's exactly what testing produces.

"This is not an issue of, 'We [owners] win, [players association] loses,' " he said. "To the extent that it is a victory, it's a victory for the integrity of the game."


Pitcher Odalis Perez took the advice of the Dodgers and improved his off-season conditioning, reporting to camp 12 pounds lighter than the 222 he played at last season. The left-hander's psyche also got a boost, as his mother is now recovering in the Dominican Republic after a lengthy illness.

"She was really sick in December and I was worried a lot, but she's doing better now," he said. "I'm going to call her every day, I'm going to call my family every day, to do whatever I have to do to make sure she's all right."

Perez established personal bests across the board in his full season in the rotation, going 15-10 with a 3.00 earned-run average and pitching 222 1/3 innings. He was rewarded with a $3.4-million contract.


Right-hander Darren Dreifort threw 40 pitches in his second bullpen session of the spring.... A small practice field used for bunting drills was named "Maury's Pit" in honor of Maury Wills, baserunning and bunting coordinator, during a ceremony at the club's new complex.

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