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Major League Baseball has made tremendous progress in dealing with the issue of performance-enhancing substances. Today I would like to describe for you that progress at both the minor league and Major League level. I would also like to describe for you the newly negotiated Major League steroid policy as well as an effort we have undertaken with the Partnership for a Drug Free America aimed at educating America's youth on the dangers of steroid use.
In 2001, I promulgated the first-ever comprehensive drug testing policy for minor league baseball. In the first year of testing under that policy, the positive rate in the minor leagues was approximately 11 percent. Confronted with this high rate, we responded with more testing and tougher discipline. In each subsequent year, that positive rate has decreased and the overall decrease has been dramatic. The rate was 4.8 percent in 2002, 4 percent in 2003 and just 1.7 percent in 2004. As we embark on the 2005 season, baseball has committed even more resources to the eradication of steroid use in the minor leagues. We will do more testing, expanding the program into the Venezuelan Summer League, and will continue to discipline violators in a manner that our medical advisors believe will eradicate steroid use.
Similar progress has been made at the Major League level. In 2002, Major League Baseball reached a new agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) which, for the first time, provided for testing of Major League players for steroids. Under the agreement, an anonymous prevalence study was conducted in 2003. The positive rate for performance-enhancing substances in the 2003 testing was in the range of 5-7 percent. This disturbing rate triggered a more rigorous disciplinary testing program in 2004. This more effective program resulted in a decline of the positive rate to 1-2 percent. In other words, the 2002 agreement that has been roundly criticized in some circles actually resulted in a significant reduction in steroid use.
Despite this improvement, Major League Baseball has continued to move ahead on this important and challenging issue. Last December, at my urging, the MLBPA took the unprecedented step of reopening an existing collective bargaining agreement to allow for the negotiation of an even stronger, new policy on performance enhancing substances. This new policy addresses all of the major areas of concern raised in congressional hearings conducted in 2004.
Before I turn to the specifics of the new policy, however, I want to review the background that lead to our concerns and, ultimately, the adoption of a new policy. In the period of time following the 1994-95 strike, I began to hear more about the possibility of the use of performance-enhancing substance by players. That concern escalated with the 1998 statements involving Mark McGwire and androstenedione (andro). At that time, we began a comprehensive review of the medical and health issues. Given the limitations in our collective bargaining agreement, we were prohibited from testing players to determine which particular players were using what substances. Through extensive conversations with doctors and trainers and consultation with experts in the field, however, I was able to learn enough to decide that performance-enhancing substances were a serious issue in baseball that had to be addressed.
To assist us in the development of our minor league policy and, later, our bargaining proposals to the Players Association, we hired and relied upon experts in the area of drugs and sports. As the medical director of Major League Baseball, we hired Dr. Elliot Pellman, who holds a similar position with the NFL. Dr. Pellman, in turn, hired Dr. Gary Green who is affiliated with the World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratory at UCLA. Dr. Green is a leading expert on performance-enhancing substances. We also retained Dr. Larry Westreich, a well-known expert on the treatment of substance abuse problems. I have relied heavily on these experts in developing and refining our policies.
I should also say a word about our players. For some time now the majority of our great and talented athletes have deeply -- and rightly-- resented two things. They have resented being put at a competitive disadvantage by their refusal to jeopardize their health and the integrity of the game by using illegal and dangerous substances. And they have deeply -- and rightly -- resented the fact that they live under a cloud of suspicion that taints their achievements on the field.
This cloud has been produced, in part, by some critics of baseball who, although well intentioned, are not well informed about baseball's multifaceted campaign against such substances. This campaign has produced dramatic, quantifiable successes. You will hear in detail from Robert Manfred, executive vice president of Major League Baseball, about what has been done in the minor leagues, and about what has been done at the Major League level, in the context of collective bargaining.
Now, I would like to turn to the details of our new Major League policy. First, the new policy broadens the list of banned substances in baseball. The banned list includes not only all steroids, but also steroid precursors, ephedra, human growth hormone and diuretics and other masking agents. I should add that Congress' passage of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 was a key development in allowing baseball to move closer to accepted international standards in this area.
Second, the new policy greatly increases the frequency of testing of Major League players. Under our prior policy, each player was subject to one steroid test per season on an unannounced, randomly selected date. This type of testing was an important first step and will be continued in 2005. Under the old testing program, however, once the player had completed his one test for the year, the threat of discipline for the use of steroids was gone until the next season. To address this issue, Major League Baseball added an on-going program of random testing for 2005 under which players can be tested multiple times in a given year. Under the new policy, no matter how many times a player is tested in a given year, he will remain subject to an additional random test.
Third, the new policy, for the first time, introduces off-season or "out-of-competition" testing. In the traditional employment context, unions have understandably resisted employer efforts to intrude into off-duty hours and vacation time. This traditional union resistance has carried over into the context of professional sports. To its credit, however, the MLBPA has agreed to compromise the legitimate privacy concerns of its members and allow off-season testing. This off-season testing, which will literally be carried out around the globe, will insure that players cannot use the winter as an opportunity for drug-induced performance enhancement.
Baseball's new policy also provides for increased penalties. Under the new policy, first-time offenders will be suspended for ten days, without pay, and will be publicly identified as having violated the policy against the use of performance enhancing substances. A ten-day suspension will cost the average Major League player approximately $140,000 in lost salary. Penalties for subsequent offenses increase to 30 days, 60 days and one year. More important in terms of deterrence, however, is the fact that no player wants to be identified to his peers and the public as a cheater.
Some have suggested that greater penalties, particularly for first offenders, would be in order. With the guidance of my medical advisers, however, I agreed to the lesser penalties on the theory that behavior modification should be the most important goal of our policy and that the penalties in our new policy were well-designed to serve that goal.
As baseball's testing program has become more strict, we have also worked to improve its quality. Last year, baseball moved its testing programs into independent Olympic laboratories certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The minor league testing is now done at the WADA-certified lab at UCLA and the Major League testing for performance-enhancing substances is done at the WADA-certified lab in Montreal. These labs are the "gold standard" in testing for performance-enhancing substances. Equally important, our relationship with these facilities has put baseball in a better position to monitor new developments in the area of performance-enhancing substances. For example, Baseball has already banned at both the Major League and minor league levels the designer steroid Dehydrochloromethyltestosterone (DMT), that was recently discovered at the WADA laboratory in Montreal.
Baseball is, of course, an international game. Recognizing this fact, our efforts at eliminating the use of performance-enhancing substances have an international component. Last year, the minor league policy was expanded to the Dominican Summer League, complete with testing and educational activities. Our partners in the Mexican League have announced recently their intention to implement a program much like our minor league policy and we will extend our minor league policy to the Venezuelan Summer League this year.
Next spring, baseball and the MLBPA will conduct the first-ever international baseball tournament in which countries from around the world will field teams that include the best professional players, including the biggest Major League stars. As part of the event, Major League Baseball, the MLBPA and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) have reached an agreement whereby all participants in the event will be subject to Olympic-style drug testing in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code. The world tournament will not only provide great international competition but it will also mark another step forward in baseball's effort to deal with the problem of performance-enhancing substances. In promoting this event, Baseball will emphasize this important anti-steroid message.
Major League Baseball has always recognized the influence that our stars can have on the youth of America. As such, we are concerned that recent revelations and allegations of steroid use have been sending a terrible message to young people. Over the past year, we have been working with our friends at the Partnership for a Drug Free America to determine the appropriate timing and content of public service announcements that will discourage young people from using steroids. In the coming months, you will see the product of these efforts on television and we can only hope that these announcements will contribute to better decision-making by young athletes. My office has also had conversations with Congressman [John] Sweeney [R-N.Y.] about Major League Baseball providing support for his proposed legislation on steroid education and becoming involved in the educational programs created by that legislation. I expect that these conversations will continue and will bear fruit.
Baseball's policy on performance enhancing substances is as good as any in professional sports. Notwithstanding the quality of our new policy, baseball will not rest and will continue to be vigilant on the issue of performance enhancing substances as we move toward my stated goal of zero tolerance.
Good morning Mr. Chairman, ranking member and committee members. I would like to note that I have previously submitted a written statement that I would ask to be included in the record. I am not going to read any portion of that statement this morning, but instead would like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the issues raised in the committee's letter to Commissioner [Bud] Selig and Mr. [Donald] Fehr.
First, much has been made out of the fact that our agreement sets forth penalties in the disjunctive. For each offense, there is a suspension of specified length or a fine amount. That formulation of the penalties was included in our 2002 agreement and was carried forward into the new agreement. In retrospect, that language, as a drafting matter, probably should have been altered. There is, however, no dispute or misunderstanding between the bargaining parties as to how the agreement is going to operate. We have informed the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) that the commissioner intends to and will suspend across the board for all violations. The owners ratified the agreement with that understanding. It is also my understanding that Mr. Fehr's constituents are in the process of ratifying based on that same understanding.
The committee's letter also takes issue with our process for disclosing positive results. Under the agreement if a player tests positive, it will be reported in the transaction list published in every paper in America that the player tested positive for violating the joint drug agreement. Given that we only test for steroids under the joint drug agreement, everyone will understand that the suspension was based on a steroid test. In terms of the general confidentiality language in our agreement, I would point out that virtually every drug program in America contains such a general confidentiality commitment, including the programs that have been adopted by the federal government to cover its employees.
The assertion that all steroids are not banned under the baseball policy is simply untrue. The plain language of our agreement bans all steroids on Schedule III as well as any other anabolic androgenic agent that cannot be lawfully obtained in this country. The list of substances in the agreement is clearly identified as a "nonexhaustive" list. As to the four substances specifically mentioned in your letter, one is anabolic androgenic agent that cannot lawfully be obtained in the United States and is therefore banned under the plain language of our agreement. A second, danazol, is a prescription drug which many experts believe may not have anabolic characteristics. A third, boldione, is a nutritional supplement, that Congress inappropriately excluded from the Steroid Control Act of 2004. We have been in conversations with the DEA and understand that it is going to be added to Schedule III, at which time it will be banned under our program. The fourth is DHEA, which despite our lobbying efforts, was excluded from the Steroid Control Act of 2004.
The assertion that our policy fails to ban designer steroids is also incorrect. The language banning "anabolic androgenic steroids that are not covered by Schedule III but that may not be lawfully obtained" has been previously used by the bargaining parties to ban THG and DMT. The bargaining parties have relied on this language in the contract to ban designer steroids in the past and will do so in the future. I would also point out that substances that fall within this definitional language are added automatically, without the need for action by the Health Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC).
The Committee's criticisms of our position on human growth hormone is also unfair. Our experts, including the director of the WADA certified lab in Montreal has informed us that there is no verifiable test, blood or urine, for human growth hormone. We are actively involved with efforts to accelerate the development of a urine test.
The committee's letter criticizes our program because it is governed by a joint labor-management committee known as the Health Policy Advisory Committee. No other professional sport uses an outside independent agency to supervise its drug testing program. This includes the NFL. In fact, I am unaware of a single collectively bargained private employer drug testing program anywhere in the United States that is supervised by an outside agency such as USADA. While the Olympics may take a decidedly different approach, the Olympics operate in a decidedly different environment, unrestrained by a collective bargaining obligation.
The Committee's letter characterizes as extraordinary the provision that would suspend testing in the face of a government effort to obtain across-the-board testing results. At the outset, I should point out that this provision does not apply if the government investigation is supported by individualized probable cause. It is also important to understand that this provision did not arise in a vacuum. Baseball has faced efforts by law enforcement authorities to obtain across-the-board testing results absent individual probable cause. All the provision does is temporarily suspend the program while we resist an attempt by law enforcement officials to premise a criminal probe on private drug testing results.
Last, the committee's letter criticizes baseball because certain of its collection procedures are not consistent with those used by WADA. At the outset, it is important to understand that many federal and state laws that make it very difficult for an employer to follow strictly WADA requirements. On the fundamentals, however, Major League Baseball's collection procedures are entirely sound. All urine specimens are provided under direct observation of the collector. While players are occasionally allowed to leave the testing site for approximately an hour if they cannot provide a specimen, the opportunities for a steroid user to avoid detection during this hour are very limited particularly given that baseball tests for diuretics and masking agents and checks the specific gravity of all urine samples. Moreover, while players may leave the immediate testing area, they remain in the clubhouse where they are subject to observation by testing officials.
In closing, I would point out that no one likes to receive a letter like we received from the committee yesterday. When one really understands the substance of our policy, however, there are precious few legitimate criticisms that can be directed at this policy. This is particularly true when one has some appreciation for the fact that the policy was negotiated in the context of a voluntary reopener of a collective bargaining agreement.
In a perfect world, those of us privileged enough to work in Major League Baseball would have been aware of the use of steroids from the minute it became an issue among our players. In a perfect world, the leadership of Major League Baseball would have had the unfettered right to deal with the problem of performance-enhancing substances as soon as we became aware of that problem. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world.
In his statement to the committee, Commissioner [Bud] Selig describes the progress that Baseball has made on the issue of steroids in recent years and the new policy that we began implementing on March 3, 2005. That policy is the product of collective bargaining with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). Major League Baseball continues to believe that congressional review of a portion of a private collective bargaining agreement is contrary to the national labor policy that Congress established in 1935. Because the committee does not share our view in this regard, we are present here today and my goal is to provide the committee with some historical context that must be considered in evaluating this portion of our collective bargaining agreement with the MLBPA.
Major League Baseball has been called in front of a number of congressional committees in recent years to answer questions about the use of performance-enhancing substances by players. In the testimony presented to the various committees by Major League Baseball, one theme has been clear: Drug testing is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining with the MLBPA. This theme should not be viewed as an excuse or complaint by Major League Baseball. It is simply a statement of fact.
I am sure that every member of the committee is well aware that the system of collective bargaining created by the National Labor Relations Act is, by design, an incremental process. The law creates a framework for mandatory negotiation, but no outside party or governmental agency has the authority to dictate a substantive result. Because the process is essentially consensual, the agreements that emerge necessarily reflect a balancing of different interests and are often not as forceful as those that can be produced by a different process or in a different legal framework.
Moreover, baseball's collective bargaining has had its own unique dynamics and limitations. Most of you will recall the long players' strike in 1994 and the series of congressional hearings convened to pressure the sport into a settlement. Major League Baseball made a comprehensive proposal on steroid testing during that round of bargaining. It was a sound proposal that reflected foresight on the part of the leadership of the game. But, as those of you who were around in 1994 will remember, the priority was resolving the economic issues facing the game and getting the game back on the field. No one believed that there was significant steroid use in the game at that time.
Within the context of a collective bargaining relationship imposed by federal law, baseball and the MLBPA have made steady and important progress on steroids in recent years. The 2002 basic agreement allowed the industry to move forward with drug testing at the Major League level for the first time. The 2003 survey testing put to rest the parties' disagreement over the scope of the problem. More important, the contract's creative approach moved the game directly into disciplinary testing in 2004, rather than waiting for the next round of negotiations. This winter, the bargaining parties moved forward with the fight against steroids and reopened their contract for the first time in history. The parties proceeded to negotiate a stiffer policy, even though positive rates had declined sharply in 2004.
Major League Baseball has openly admitted that its policy on steroids in the 1990s was inadequate and inappropriate. During that period, however, the federal government's policy on performance-enhancing substances was also deeply flawed. In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which essentially deregulated the nutritional supplement industry. Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione (which was developed for use by the East German Olympic team) were made available to consumers, including children, over the counter. DSHEA gave legitimacy to the performance-enhancement industry and allowed athletes who used products such as andro to argue that they were not cheating because the products were "legal." The legality of products such as andro also complicated the process of drug testing. For example, athletes who inject testosterone are detected by a test that shows an abnormally high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in the body, or a high "T/E ratio." Because andro causes the body to produce additional testosterone and can elevate the T/E ratio, andro users can be difficult to distinguish from those who are illegally injecting testosterone.
Late last year, Congress, with the full support and at the urging of Major League Baseball, passed the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 and corrected the flawed federal policy on steroid precursors. Within weeks, baseball and the MLBPA implemented a new drug policy banning these dangerous substances. In fact, it seems fair to observe that as the nation has become more aware and less tolerant of the use of performance-enhancing substances by athletes, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have responded to this shift with progressively more effective policies.
Before closing, I would like to address two topics that have been raised by members of the committee in discussions leading up to this hearing. The first is the independence of baseball's drug testing program. Contrary to some assertions, every aspect of baseball's drug program, with the exception of the actual imposition of discipline, is controlled by parties independent of Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. The selection of players to be tested, the dates of the testing, the selection and supervision of collectors and the observation of players providing samples are all functions controlled by an outside, independent company. The new random component of the program is completely unpredictable and clubs have no advance notice of when a particular player will be tested. The actual testing of samples and interpretation of results are performed by the Olympic laboratory in Montreal that is certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency. In fact, our program is run with more independence than those in other professional sports where league employees collect samples and "captive" labs have been used.
Second, baseball has been and will be committed to funding research to combat the proliferation of performance-enhancing substances. In 1998, in the wake of revelations of andro use by high-profile players, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA funded a seminal study at Harvard University. That study produced the first medical evidence establishing that andro can, like an anabolic steroid, increase muscle mass. Currently, baseball is in discussions with the WADA-certified laboratory at UCLA (which does our minor league testing) about providing additional funding for research directed at the development of a urine test for human growth hormone. Contrary to published reports, there is not an available, verified test for HGH, even with a blood sample. Therefore, our efforts to develop a urine test are vital.
In closing, I can tell you from extensive personal experience that Commissioner Selig has a long-term, deep commitment to the goal of eliminating steroids in baseball and we will work tirelessly to reach that goal.
I would like to begin today by emphasizing the most important point of these hearings for Congress and young people: Baseball is dealing aggressively with the usage of steroids in the game. I believe that the current minor league drug policy and the newly implemented Major League drug policy are enormous steps forward as we strive to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from professional baseball.
I have been employed in baseball for almost 24 years, 17 of them with the Oakland Athletics. For 14 of those years, from 1984 through 1997, I was the general manager of the Athletics. I was also president of the A's from 1993 through 1995 and in 1997 and 1998. I have been executive vice president, baseball operations, at Major League Baseball from 1998 to the present.
My awareness of steroids has evolved through that time, from little or no awareness in the early years to a great awareness today. Simply put, we now know far more about performance-enhancing drugs and their use in professional baseball than we once did.
In retrospect, I wish that I and the rest of Major League Baseball had known more about this problem sooner so that effective controls could have been implemented earlier than they have been. No one involved in the management of Major League Baseball over the past 20-plus years would answer otherwise, but in the past we did not have the benefit of the knowledge we have now.
Our awareness has been dynamic, not static, as have been our steps to address the problem. And we are addressing this problem, not only to protect the health of our players and the integrity of our sport, but also to demonstrate to young athletes and others that steroids and other performance-enhancing substances should not be used or condoned.
With the considerable attention now being paid to the steroid issue, it is difficult to imagine that there was a time when those in baseball had barely heard of steroids, much less suspected that they were a problem in the game. When I first became the general manager of the Athletics in 1983, the conventional wisdom within professional baseball was that strength training would not result in improved performance. Many players and clubs placed no emphasis at all on strength development.
In the early and mid-1980s, the Oakland Athletics embarked on many innovative programs. We were the first to embrace quantitative analysis for the evaluation of players. We hired the first "mental coach," someone actually in uniform, to assist with the development of our players and staff. We may have been the first team to promote strength training and to configure a team weight room at the ballpark. At the Major League level, a former Major League player already on the coaching staff was assigned additional responsibility as the strength coach.
We also instituted a comprehensive club drug program for Minor League players in 1984. This program focused on recreational drugs and it had a testing component. Therapy was the goal of this program, not punishment. The program did not include steroids, because possible steroid use was not even contemplated at that time.
One of the players developed by the Oakland organization during this time was Jose Canseco. Canseco was a mid-round draft selection, but he quickly developed a reputation for bat speed and power. By the end of the 1984 season, which was before Canseco claims he began using steroids, Canseco was a possible future star with great power potential.
Baseball America considered him the A's number one prospect. Consequently, his subsequent development, physically as well as professionally, was gratifying but not surprising to those in the organization. By the time Canseco was an established player, many organizations had adopted similar strength training programs and, as a result, many players throughout Major League Baseball were getting stronger and bigger. For those of us in management, certainly into the late 1980s, there was little reason to believe that players' strength and weight gains resulted from anything other than hard work.
There did come a time, however, when I did wonder whether Jose Canseco might be using steroids. There was a column written in late 1988 that speculated about his steroid use and led to a brief fan reaction in Boston during the 1988 playoffs. But his reaction to the speculation was a vehement denial, a much different response than the recent admissions in his book. Also, probably in 1989, Canseco reported to spring training markedly bigger and more physically developed than he had been the year before.
However, under the collective bargaining agreement then in force with the Major League Baseball Players Association, Major League players could not be tested for steroid use. Congress did not even make steroids illegal until 1991.
During my time in Oakland, I never saw any player use steroids. I never saw any steroids or steroid paraphernalia. Steroid suspicion was not a consideration of mine in trading Jose Canseco in 1992, in trading for him in 1997 or in not re-signing him for 1998. I never suspected Mark McGwire or Jason Giambi of using steroids during my tenure in Oakland.
There were many factors at work in baseball in the 1990s which may have obscured a steroid problem. Home runs and run production were increasing during this time but not always year to year. At the same time, strength programs were in vogue across Major League Baseball; hitter friendly ballparks were being built; expansion had occurred in 1993 and again in 1998; two seasons, 1994 and 1995, had been shortened by a player strike; bat design had changed and there was an emphasis with many clubs on having offensive players even at traditionally defensive positions (i.e., shortstop, centerfield, second base, catcher).
Beginning in the late 1990s, there has been a growing awareness of steroid use in professional baseball. This greater awareness first emerged with the inquiry into the use of androstenedione in 1998.
Since then, we have become more knowledgeable as a result of a strong testing program in the minor leagues, as well as the testing program contained in the 2002 collective bargaining agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association. Participation in international competitions such as the Olympics, where professional players have competed since 2000, has also contributed to our knowledge and, I believe, to the willingness of the players' association to finally accept drug testing for steroids.
Out of this greater awareness have come a strengthened minor league drug policy, the new Major League drug policy implemented for this season, and a medical advisory committee that was formed partly to keep the commissioner and Major League Baseball informed about performance-enhancing substances. Also, tighter controls on the access to Major League Baseball clubhouses were instituted.
Hindsight is 20/20 vision. All of us in baseball, including me, wish that we had been able to detect steroid use earlier in the 1990s. But I and we can only learn from this recent history. In the meantime, the new Major League steroid policy effective for this season is a great step forward. The program represents, on the part of both players and management, an affirmation that the integrity of the game, the health of Major League players, and the health of the youth of the United States are vitally important to baseball.