MLB drops possible fines for steroids

Monday, March 21, 2005

NEW YORK -- Baseball players and owners agreed Sunday to drop the possibility of fines for steroid use, leaving suspensions as the only discipline, according to management's top labor lawyer.

Congressmen repeatedly criticized baseball for the fine possibility during Thursday's hearing before the House Government Reform Committee. Management officials told the committee they were willing to eliminate the fine provision, held over from baseball's first drug-testing agreement in 2002.

"We do have an agreement with (union head Donald Fehr) that the language after the disjunctive in the various disciplinary levels is going to be eliminated," Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said Sunday. "It will be just the straight suspension, which everybody knew was going to happen anyway. To the degree there was any doubt, I think this change should put to rest any concerns in that regard."

Fehr told the committee he would have to consult with players, who have not yet approved the deal.

"The agreement still has to be ratified, but the negotiators have agreed to modify that language," said Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel.

Commissioner Bud Selig repeatedly said during the hearing that his intent was to suspend players for all positive tests.

Baseball's new agreement had called for a 10-day suspension or up to $10,000 fine for a first positive test. A second positive was to result in a 30-day suspension or up to $25,000 fine, a third in a 60-day suspension or up to $50,000 fine and a four in a one-year suspension or up to $100,000 fine.

After that, discipline is determined by the commissioner.

Now, it's suspensions only.

Earlier Sunday, Sen. John McCain said he thought legislation may be needed to force a tougher plan.

"It just seems to me they can't be trusted," the Arizona Republican told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "It seems to me that we ought to seriously consider ... a law that says all professional sports have a minimum level of performance-enhancing drug testing."

House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he agreed with McCain's suggestion that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency could be called in to govern baseball's testing. The agency oversees drug testing and discipline for U.S. Olympic athletes.

"They've got this season. We'll see how they respond when they find someone testing positive," the Virginia Republican said.

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