AP Newsbreak: Baseball would suspend drug testing if government investigates

By RONALD BLUM, AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK - Baseball would suspend steroid testing during any government investigation, and players and owners have agreed to fight in court efforts to obtain private information about the tests, according to baseball's new testing agreement.

The still-unsigned 27-page document also retains a provision that allows the baseball commissioner to substitute fines for suspensions. It also does not require offseason testing but says ``the office of the commissioner shall have the right'' to conduct additional random tests.

A joint management-union committee determines ``the number, schedule and timing of these tests.'' There are no details on how offseason tests shall be conducted and whether players must report their whereabouts.

Sen. John McCain, who said two months ago that the agreement ``appears to be a significant breakthrough,'' changed course Wednesday after reading the details.

``I can reach no conclusion but that the league and the players union have misrepresented to me and to the American public the substance of MLB's new steroid policy,'' the Arizona Republican said in a letter to baseball commissioner Bud Selig and union head Donald Fehr. ``I expect the league and the players union to modify the new policy to comply with at least what was announced by MLB in January.''

The agreement does not address whether players who tested positive for steroids in 2004 and test positive again shall be treated as first offenders, who can be suspended for 10 days, or second offenders, who can be suspended for 30 days. There were 12 positive tests last year, baseball told the committee.

All testing for steroids ``shall be suspended immediately upon the parties' learning of a governmental investigation,'' the agreement states.

If a lower-court decision favoring baseball is set aside on appeal, testing again shall be suspended. And if testing is halted for an entire year, each side can reopen the agreement. The government, however, is allowed to pursue testing information of specific players if it has ``probable cause'' from information not obtained from the testing program.

``The players agreed to come forward and submit to drug testing in order to restore the integrity of the game,'' Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said in a telephone interview. ``It is quite another thing to say they submitted to drug testing and government can come in and seize their drug-testing results without any showing of individual suspicion. The Fourth Amendment would prevent them from doing it directly and a private employer shouldn't be put in the position of doing it indirectly.''

Manfred said that while details of offseason testing remained to be agreed to, ``there is an understanding that they're going to give us whereabouts on where the players are going to be.''

While there will be no public disclosure of the substance a player tests positive for, the general manager of his team may obtain the information and disclose it to a GM of another team in trade talks.

Players are expected to ratify the deal shortly. The agreement was given to the House Government Reform Committee on Monday by the commissioner's office to comply with a subpoena ahead of Thursday's hearing on steroids in baseball . The committee made the document public Wednesday.

Selig and the union announced the agreement on Jan. 13, with Selig saying at the time: ``This policy is consistent with my stated goal of zero tolerance.''

The agreement adds ephedra to drugs of abuse and expands the list of banned steroids from 27 to 45. Baseball did not move to ban amphetamines and did not institute a blood test for Human Growth Hormone , a test whose accuracy baseball says is under dispute.

This deal, which replaces the one players and owners agreed to in 2002, retains the commissioner's ability to fine a player instead of suspending him. A first positive for steroids results in a 10-day suspension or $10,000 fine; a second in a 30-day suspension or $25,000 fine; a third in a 60-day suspension of $50,000 fine; and a fourth in a one-year suspension or $100,000 fine.

Under the prior agreement, a first positive resulted in treatment, with escalating suspensions and fines from there.

The alternative to fine players wouldn't be used, according to Manfred.

``All players with positive test results unequivocally will be suspended without pay and their names announced,'' he said in a statement. ``The players' association was aware of our intention to suspend across the board for positives.''

Rep. Tom Davis, the chairman of the committee holding the hearing, and Rep. Henry Waxman, the panel's ranking Democrat, wrote to Selig and Fehr on Wednesday expressing concern.

``Even if players are suspended, the public disclosure is limited to the fact of their suspension with no official confirmation that the player tested positive for steroids,'' they said. ``In contrast, the Olympic policy calls for a two-year suspension for a first offense.''

They also said the deal didn't prohibit four steroids banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, calling it a ``significant omission.'' They also criticized baseball for not banning insulin , human chorionic gonadotropin and IGF-1, which they said act like steroids, and for not having an outside agency supervise the program. Manfred said some already are banned under general language and others could be added automatically.