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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Certain violations after 2003 might get closer look from MLB

By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine

Major league players mentioned in the Mitchell report who are found to have violated the sport's drug-testing agreement after the 2003 season -- after baseball first instituted penalties for positive steroid tests -- are likely to face the most scrutiny by Major League Baseball.

The league in all likelihood will request meetings with all active players mentioned in the report, but will apply standards -- when it deems it necessary -- according to the year of the alleged violation. Baseball has changed its levels of penalties twice since the 2004 season.

The baseball players' union has agreed to discuss with owners the recommendations George Mitchell made to toughen the sport's drug program.

Commissioner Bud Selig sent a letter to union leader Donald Fehr asking that the sides talk about Mitchell's ideas.

"They wrote back, and they were amenable to discuss the recommendations," said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations.

Fehr said it was too early to tell where the talks might lead.

"We've had communication with Bud, and we'll be talking with players, and we'll go from there," Fehr said.

In a reading of the Mitchell report, there are at least 14 players who are connected either through interviews or through other evidence with performance-enhancing drugs beginning in the 2004 season and into 2006.

Those players are Rondell White, Larry Bigbie, Ron Villone, Ryan Franklin, Cody McKay, Stephen Randolph, Jerry Hairston Jr., Paul Lo Duca, Bart Miadich, Eric Gagne, Matt Herges, Brendan Donnelly, Howie Clark and Nook Logan.

Active players such as Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte and Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who have acknowledged use prior to when the penalties were instituted, may not face suspension, because no rules were in place at the time of use.

Under pressure from politicians, players twice agreed to reopen their 2002 drug agreement and toughened the rules before the 2005 season and again before 2006. The current drug agreement runs through the 2011 season, and Manfred said talk of an agreement on Mitchell's recommendations or reopening the contract was premature.

"We have an agreement that we're going to discuss the recommendations. Nobody talked about agreeing, reopening," he said.

Major League Baseball effectively laid out a blueprint for how it may handle the Mitchell report cases with its handling of the suspensions of Kansas City Royals outfielder Jose Guillen and Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons. Earlier this month, MLB suspended each for the first 15 days of the 2008 season. Those penalties matched what a second offense would have drawn under 2003-04 rules. Gibbons has accepted his penalty; Guillen has filed a grievance through the players' association.

Buster Olney is a senior baseball writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.