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It's time for players' union to toss drug cheats

December 25, 2007

This article was written by Fred Claire, former executive vice president and general manager of the Dodgers, and was published on MLB.com on Friday.

More than five months before he had written what is now known as the Mitchell Report, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell had already focused on what he felt was the most important issue related to performance-enhancing drugs.

"The principal victims . . . are the players who don't use those substances," Mitchell told the Boston Globe in a story that ran on July 4 of this year. "Their careers and livelihood are put at risk.

"There's a lot of discussion in the media of the integrity of the game, the effect on the fans and sports generally. All of which are important. But to me, the real issue is the effect on the competitors and the competition, and those who play by the rules and don't use these substances.

"They are the real victims," Mitchell told the Globe.

When the Mitchell Report was released, Mitchell knew only a small portion of those players who broke the rules was revealed. That's why he wanted to put the focus more on the future -- his recommendations that could prevent use and the temptation for use in the days, months and years ahead.

If the Major League Baseball Players Assn. shares Mitchell's view that the players who haven't used performance-enhancing drugs are the real victims, because they have been put at a competitive disadvantage and because they have been stained by those who broke the rules, there is a solution available to the union.

It is a simple solution and it has a precedent -- remove and bar the violators (those testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs) from the union. And put the policy in place immediately.

If it takes a vote of the members of the Players Assn. to take this action, fine, take a vote.

It's a simple proposal to put in front of the players: If you agree that any player testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs should be removed from the union, vote in favor of this proposal.

Name me one player who would vote against this proposal. Let's hear the name. Let's hear one player say publicly that he would not be in favor of this action.

Let's hear one player say he is in favor of the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Just one. Say it publicly.

The union couldn't do this, you say. Why not? There is a history of the union taking this type of action.

When the players were on strike in the spring of 1995, the commissioner's office made the decision to field replacement players. Those players performed during the course of spring training in 1995 and were prepared to start the season when the strike came to a halt just before the opening day schedule.

Thirteen seasons have passed but those replacement players who ultimately reached the major leagues are not allowed union membership. This means they do not receive any licensing monies because they are not included on any official merchandise.

Former replacement players also cannot vote on union matters. They are, however, given union representation during arbitration and will receive pension benefits.

The union separated itself from these players by basically saying that their action hurt the union. The action was clear: We don't want you as part of our union in areas other than are called for as part of the union regulations.

The union felt that anyone who crosses a picket line is threatening the livelihood of the union members. Nothing threatens the livelihood of the members today more than the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

It's not just the removal of licensing money that stamps the replacement players as outsiders. The MLBPA refuses to allow the names of replacement players to be included on any official MLB merchandise that is licensed by the association.

There have been replacement players who have been a part of World Series championship teams, but you won't find their names and pictures on the T-shirts and other licensed products that commemorate the accomplishment.

An action by the union to bar the users of performance-enhancing drugs would have a tremendous impact on the major league players of today and certainly the players of tomorrow. And there is the ability to do far more testing at the minor league level.

Furthermore, the union taking a stand on this issue in this manner would bring praise to the players and to the union itself.

It would show the players have taken a definite and strong stand against performance-enhancing drugs: You use and you're not one of us.

We've now heard from a number of players who have used performance-enhancing drugs and we've heard their excuses. It's time for the players who don't use performance-enhancing drugs and don't believe it's fair to compete with the cheaters to take a stand.

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