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Owners, union agree on drug policy

Baseball deal increases testing, grants amnesty to players named in Mitchell Report.

April 12, 2008|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

Baseball owners and players agreed Friday on a revised drug program that grants amnesty to all players cited in the Mitchell Report as users of performance-enhancing substances.

"It is time for the game to move forward," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "There is little to be gained at this point in debating dated misconduct and enduring numerous disciplinary proceedings."

The amnesty covers Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals and Jay Gibbons, released last month by the Baltimore Orioles. The 15-day suspension for each player, imposed in December and stayed pending the new agreement, has been waived.

Selig had wanted to impose some punishment, even if limited to fines, against the active players named in the Mitchell Report. He backed down after the players' union agreed to donate $200,000 to anti-drug programs and agreed that players, including those cited by Mitchell, would join in drug education efforts.

In negotiations, according to two sources describing confidential discussions on condition of anonymity, the union told the owners it would not consent to an agreement billed as implementing Mitchell's recommendations when Mitchell had recommended no punishment for the players he named.

Selig pointedly reserved the right to fine club officials not represented by the union, saying "any fines imposed on management personnel for conduct described in the Mitchell Report" would be donated to two anti-drug organizations.

Selig told Congress in January that he would investigate the San Francisco Giants, with the Mitchell Report alleging that owner Peter Magowan and General Manager Brian Sabean failed to follow up when athletic trainer Stan Conte reported that Greg Anderson, the personal trainer for Barry Bonds, might be distributing steroids in the clubhouse.

"It is possible the BALCO scandal could have been averted if Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan acted in a responsible fashion," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) said during that congressional hearing. "Instead they seemed more intent on protecting Barry Bonds."

Waxman and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement saying they "look forward to reviewing the details of the agreement."

In the new agreement, owners and players continued to rebuff calls to outsource drug testing to an independent third party but did agree to appoint the current program administrator, Dr. Bryan Smith, to a three-year term in which he can be removed only for cause and after an arbitration hearing. Mitchell had criticized baseball's characterization of Smith as independent because he could be removed at any time, by either players or owners, and without cause.

The two sides agreed that Smith would release an annual report summarizing the overall number of tests, the number of positive tests and the substances involved in positive results.

When baseball handed a 50-game suspension to Atlanta Braves prospect Jordan Schafer this week, the announcement specified he had used human growth hormone.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said Schafer had been disciplined under the minor league program, which will now specify substances involved in suspensions. Manfred said the union had not agreed to specify substances involved in major league suspensions.

The agreement also increases the number of annual tests from 3,000 to 3,600, with the additional tests all random. The number of mandatory tests per player remains two.

The number of off-season tests rises from 60 per year to "up to 375" over a three-year period.

Selig also specifically reserved the right to impose discipline upon players for criminal convictions. Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada and free agents Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens all are subjects of federal perjury investigations, with revised charges pending against Bonds.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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