Agency head calls new drug plan a 'joke'

Saturday, November 15, 2003

LONDON -- Baseball's policy on steroids is a "complete joke" and an "insult" to the fight against performance-enhancing drugs, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

WADA chairman Dick Pound criticized the system and scale of penalties for steroid use that will start in baseball in March.

He wasn't the only one who thought baseball's rules aren't tough enough.

A New York-based physician who is a member of WADA, Dr. Gary Wadler, called Thursday's announcement of baseball's test results "probably the blackest day in the history of sports." Between 5 and 7 percent of anonymous steroid tests among major leaguers came back positive, triggering a provision in the sport's labor contract that calls for testing with penalties starting next year.

A first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.

The punishment would increase to a 25-day suspension or fine of up to $25,000 for a third positive test, a 50-day suspension or fine of up to $50,000 for a fourth and a one-year suspension or fine of up to $100,000 for a fifth.

"I think it's an insult to the fight against doping in sport, an insult to the intelligence of the American public and an insult to the game itself," Pound told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"I think it's a complete and utter joke. You can test positive for steroids five times, then they think of booting you out for a year? Give me a break. The first time someone has knowingly cheated and they give you counseling? It's a complete joke."

Under the anti-doping agency's code, which has been adopted by most Olympic sports, an athlete faces a minimum two-year ban for a first steroid positive and a lifetime ban for a second.

Track and field's world governing body is considering increasing its first-time steroid ban from two years to four.

Wadler said the percentage of positive tests should be unacceptable to baseball.

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, declined comment when told of Pound's remarks.

On Thursday, Manfred said "a positive rate of 5 percent is hardly the sign that you have rampant use of anything."

Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official, dismissed the criticism.

"If Dick Pound actually knew anything about the major league baseball testing program, I might give his views more than the irrelevance they for so long have been commanding," Orza said.

Pound said WADA would probably make an official complaint to the baseball commissioner's office about the sport's drug policy, which was negotiated last year with the players' association.

"We're just not sure what form it will take," he said.

Pound said he was surprised there weren't more positive tests in baseball this season. He said tests were given only for a certain category of steroids and missed out on "all kinds of stuff that players take on a regular basis."

Pound, a Canadian lawyer, has been a frequent critic of drug testing in the United States and its professional leagues.

"They're not generally seen to be active in the fight against doping in sport," he said. "There's a lot of PR. They have turned it into a management-labor issue, which almost guarantees that no progress will be made."

Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said it is hard to compare Olympic sports with baseball, where the drug policy must be collectively bargained.

"He's obviously dealing from a different standpoint than I am, and if he feels that way then he's entitled to his opinion," Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi added there was only so much steroids could do for players.

"It's not like any of us going out and drinking some milkshake, and all of a sudden we're going to hit 30 home runs a year," he said. "So I think from that standpoint there's a little bit of a myth that there's this magical elixir that someone takes, and all of a sudden they go from being a .220 hitter to the greatest player who ever lived."

Wadler said that having drug-testing rules determined by collective bargaining in the United States was a difficult concept for sports officials in other countries.

"There's no question when I meet with people who deal with doping in other parts of the world, they don't understand our system," he said. "They think there's something wrong with our system."

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