NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners have reached an agreement on a tougher steroid-testing program and plan to announce it today, The Associated Press has learned.
The agreement will include penalties for first-time offenders, an American League player said on condition of anonymity. Other details, such as the frequency of tests, were not immediately available.
Commissioner Bud Selig, asked about a steroid agreement at the owners meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., declined comment but did say: "We'll have announcements to make tomorrow."
Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, also declined comment.
"I'm glad we could come to an agreement," said Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger, who was briefed on the deal Wednesday. "It was the right thing to do. I think it was something that needed to be done, and I think players understand it needed to be addressed."
The sides spent the past month negotiating the deal after the union's executive board gave its staff approval to pursue an agreement on a more rigorous testing program. Some in Congress threatened to take action unless baseball reached an agreement on its own.
"I think it's going to entail more testing, some out-season testing, yes, more in-season random testing and stiffer penalties," said New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a senior member of the union.
Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said he anticipated confirmation of a deal by the end of the owners' meeting.
"It will be wonderful once it's done, but I don't want to pre-empt any announcement, and I certainly don't want to pre-empt all the work the commissioner has done on this, so I'll reserve my comments until after it's announced," he said.
Players and owners agreed to a drug-testing plan in 2002 that called for survey-testing for steroids the following year. Because more than 5 percent of tests were positive, random testing with penalties began last year. Each player was tested for steroids twice over a single five- to seven-day period.
A first positive test resulted in treatment. If a player tested positive again, he would have been subject to a 15-day suspension.
No player was suspended for steroid use in 2004.
Major League Baseball still is targeting April for finding an owner for the Washington Nationals, now that the new home of the former Montreal Expos has been determined.
"I would expect that we would start the diligence with the prospective buyers within a week to 10 days," DuPuy said Wednesday during a break in the owners' meeting. "We've got materials assembled in New York, and we'll be inviting groups in, and we'll go from there."
Asked if six to eight prospective ownership groups were expected, DuPuy said, "a little higher than that, and my guess is it will sort itself out over time."
Ownership of the Washington, Oakland and Milwaukee franchises were to be discussed during the two-day session at a north Scottsdale resort.
Owners are scheduled to vote Thursday on the $223 million sale of the Milwaukee Brewers from the family of commissioner Bud Selig to Mark Attanasio.
The retooling Arizona Diamondbacks made two more deals Wednesday, finalizing a contract with pitcher Shawn Estes and trading infielder Shea Hillenbrand to Toronto.
Arizona's moves came one day after it sent Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees and acquired Shawn Green and Javier Vazquez in separate trades.
Estes turned down a two-year offer for more money from the Washington Nationals. He and his wife, Heather, and their sons, 16-month-old Jackson and 3-month-old Cody, live in Paradise Valley, about a 20-minute drive to Bank One Ballpark.
"I was single for a long time in the big leagues, and playing with guys that had children I saw how hard it was for them to be away," Estes said.