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Sides to announce new plan Thursday

Baseball players and owners have reached an agreement on a tougher steroid-testing program, and the much-harsher penalties for players testing positive will include suspensions on the first offense.

The agreement is expected to be announced Thursday from the owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that the agreement will include the following components:

  • Stricter penalties: Penalties for players testing positive will be more severe than the current agreement. A source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that suspensions on the first offense will carry a maximum length of 10 games. The penalty would increase to a one-year suspension for a fourth positive test, a high-ranking official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

    Under the previous agreement, a first
    positive test resulted only in treatment, and a second positive
    test was subject to a 15-day suspension.

    Only with a fifth positive test was a player subject to a
    one-year ban under the old plan.

  • Year-round random testing for all players: Every major league player will be tested at least once a year.

    There are no stipulations requiring that a player be tested more than once. But an unspecified number of players will be selected at random to be tested numerous other times throughout the year. So unlike the current system, a player would not know, following his one mandatory test, that he had no future tests to worry about for the rest of the year.

  • Offseason testing: In the first two seasons of the agreement, testing took place only between the opening of spring training and the last day of the season.

  • Testing for more substances: A large number of substances would be added to the list of banned drugs, including THG and various steroid precursors. The new agreement does not address the issue of stimulants.

    Baseball will likely regard the suspensions for first-time offenses as
    a big step because steroids users are likely to be publicly
    identified.

    However, the penalty falls far short of the World Anti-Doping
    Agency's code, which has been adopted by most Olympic sports. It
    says the "norm" is two-year bans for a first positive test and a
    lifetime ban for a second, unless there are mitigating
    circumstances.

    Commissioner Bud Selig, asked in Scottsdale about an agreement, declined comment to The Associated Press but did say: "We'll have announcements to make [Thursday]." Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, also declined comment.

    Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said he anticipated confirmation of a deal by the end of the owners' meeting.

    "It will be wonderful once it's done, but I don't want to pre-empt any announcement, and I certainly don't want to pre-empt all the work the commissioner has done on this, so I'll reserve my comments until after it's announced," he said.

    The sides spent the past month negotiating the deal after the
    union's executive board gave its staff approval to pursue an
    agreement on a more rigorous testing program. Some in Congress
    threatened to take action unless baseball reached an agreement on its own.

    "I'm glad we could come to an agreement," said Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger, who was briefed on the deal Wednesday. "It was the right thing to do. I think it was something that needed to be done, and I think players understand it needed to be addressed."

    Tony Clark, another senior union leader, said public questions
    about steroid use had caused players to think about a tougher
    agreement.

    "The integrity of our game was beginning to come under fire, and
    there are too many great players, past and present, that deserve to
    be celebrated for their ability to play this game at a very high
    level," the free-agent first baseman said in an e-mail to the AP.
    "If a stricter drug policy brings that level of appreciation back,
    we felt that it was worth pursuing."

    Players and owners agreed to a drug-testing plan in 2002 that
    called for survey-testing for steroids the following year. Because
    more than 5 percent of tests were positive, random testing with
    penalties began last year. Each player was tested for steroids
    twice over a single five- to seven-day period.

    A first positive test resulted in treatment. If a player tested positive again, he would have been subject to a 15-day suspension.

    No player was suspended for steroid use in 2004.

    The new program is slightly less harsh than the policy for
    players with minor league contracts, who are suspended 15 games for
    a first positive test. Only players with major league contracts are
    covered by the union's agreement, while baseball can unilaterally
    decide the policy for others.

    First positive tests for steroid use result in a four-game
    suspension in the NFL and a five-game suspension in the NBA. The
    NHL does not test players for performance-enhancing drugs.

    Since the 2002 agreement, baseball has come under increased
    scrutiny for steroid use. Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield testified before a federal grand jury in December 2003. Giambi and Sheffield admitted using steroids, according to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle. Sheffield said he wasn't aware when he used the substances that they contained steroids.

    Bonds, according to the Chronicle, admitted using substances prosecutors say contained steroids.

    "Everybody believed that the program we had in place was having
    an effect and definitely it was doing what it was designed to do," Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a senior
    member of the union, told AP. "But having said that, with the stuff that was going
    on and whatnot, it forced us to take a look at revising it or
    making it a little tougher. It was not a question anymore if that
    agreement was going to be enough. It was a question to address some
    of the new issues that came to light and get our fans to believe we
    were doing everything we could to make the problem go away 100
    percent."

    Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.