Monday, March 6, 2006
MLB hopes to reduce number of positive drug tests
TAMPA, Fla. -- Major-league baseball teams will start selling approved supplements to players in an effort to prevent positive drug tests.
Management and the players' association are having NSF International, a company based in Ann Arbor, Mich., certify that products are clean. Once a supplement is certified, teams will buy the products and make them available for resale to players in the 30 major-league clubhouses.
"They do all of the auditing and testifying of the products and certify they are clean," management lawyer Frank Coonelly said Monday.
After meeting with New York Yankees players for nearly two hours Monday, union head Donald Fehr discussed the certification process. He also talked about revenue sharing, likely to be a contentious issue when the union and management start bargaining over a labor contract to replace the one that expires Dec. 19.
Commissioner Bud Selig advocates that teams should increase the amount of shared money, currently 34 percent of local net revenue.
"I don't see a need for increased revenue sharing," Fehr said, adding that revenue sharing and the luxury tax discourage teams from growing revenue.
Players are also concerned about teams that receive money, which according to the labor contract must be spent by a franchise "in an effort to improve its performance on the field."
"There's an issue as to whether or not clubs are using revenue-sharing receipts in an appropriate way," Fehr said.
Under pressure from Congress, players and owners adopted more stringent drug testing for the second straight season, and the union is trying to ensure that players understand the rules.
Twelve players tested positive last year, including Rafael Palmeiro, and received 10-day suspensions without pay. Some of the players speculated substances they bought legally outside the United States might have caused the positive tests.
This year, an initial positive test will result in a 50-game suspension without pay.
"The law is different outside the U.S., and especially outside the U.S. and Canada, and different kinds of things are available," Fehr said, "so if you're overseas, you have to pay attention to what may be available legally and over the counter or as a practical matter there which would violate our program or be unlawful in the States. People just have to pay attention."
Fehr and Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, briefed Yankees players Monday as part of their tour of the 30 camps. Weiner said the allowable substances are likely to be posted on the union's Web site.
"More memos have gone out, books have gone out. There's a video that players are watching in spring training," Fehr said.
NSF also certifies supplements for the NFL and the NFL Players Association. It has certified eight products for baseball from the company EAS Inc. and is evaluating supplements from three other companies, Coonelly said.
The message the union is giving players, according to Coonelly, is: "Just don't buy stuff overseas and bring it in. You can't have any confidence it's clean."
Baseball also added amphetamines to its list of banned substances this year. Fehr doesn't think amphetamine use in the sport was as widespread as some claimed.
"I thought that most of what you read was probably significantly overblown," he said.
While the Olympics have tested for Human Growth Hormone, Fehr said baseball is awaiting development of reliable testing.
"If a valid test becomes available for urine, we'll adopt it," he said. "There isn't any such thing. If one becomes valid and commercially available which is other than a urine test, we'll take a hard look at it."