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Players who plead guilty face automatic suspension

10/3/2002

NEW YORK -- Drug possession convictions will lead to
specified penalties under baseball's new labor contract.

The drug prevention program, the first one agreed to by players
and owners since 1985, was included in the "memorandum of
understanding" signed Tuesday by the sides. Copies were released
Wednesday.

It calls for suspensions of 15-to-30 days for a first offense,
30-to-90 days for a second conviction, an automatic one-year
penalty for a third and a two-year suspension for a fourth.

For players convicted five or more times, the commissioner would
determine the level of discipline. If the commissioner didn't want
to suspend players, he has the option to fine them without pay,
with the maximum amount increasing with each offense.

Players convicted of the sale or distribution of prohibited
substances face suspensions of 60-to-90 days and $100,000 fines for
a first offense and two years for a second offense.

A player who has not been in the drug program who voluntarily
admits to a problem is put into treatment without penalty.

"If you get caught, you're given a grace period, a chance to
rectify the problem," Anaheim's Scott Schoeneweis said. "I think
that's a good thing."

Darryl Strawberry pleaded no contest to cocaine possession
charges in May 1999. Under this agreement, he would've been subject
to discipline.

Owners and the union have spent more than two decades squabbling
over drug-related penalties, with arbitrators overturning or
shortening suspensions imposed on Ferguson Jenkins, Steve Howe,
Willie Wilson, LaMarr Hoyt, Pascual Perez and Tony Phillips.

"I'd like them to test as stringent as they can," the Angels'
Scott Spiezio said.

Some have criticized the agreement because it does not ban
supplements and doesn't call for unannounced, random year-round
testing by an independent agency that can impose penalties.

Marijuana use and possession is covered separately in the
agreement, with players facing fines of up to $15,000 but no
suspensions.

In addition, penalties for steroid use are less severe. A first
positive test would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day
suspension or fine of up to $10,000.

The length of suspensions would increase to 25 days for a third
positive test, 50 days for a fourth and one year for a fifth. These
suspensions also would be without pay.

Each player will be given two announced tests for illegal
steroids next year during spring training or the regular season as
part of a survey, and both tests will take place within a week.

If more than 5 percent test positive for steroids, ''program''
testing starts the following year and continues until less than 2.5
percent test positive in two consecutive years combined. If there
is program testing in 2004, owners can conduct up to 240 additional
random tests.

Over-the-counter supplements such as androstenedione are not
banned, but if more than 10 percent of players in a year test
positive for them on the first test but negative on the followup, a
joint union-management health committee may prohibit their use. The
committee's vote must be unanimous.

Players will not be tested randomly for drugs of abuse such as
cocaine, LSD, PCP, marijuana, opiates and Ecstasy, but they can be
tested if a health committee agrees there is ''just cause.''

If a player is in an inpatient treatment program during the
season, he gets his full salary for first 30 days of treatment, and
half his salary for days 31-60.

The labor deal, which expires Dec. 19, 2006, changes the rule
regarding tampering, allowing clubs a 72-hour window to talk with
players on other teams even if they don't already have a proposed
trade in place.

In addition, it says owners may not take a contraction vote
prior to April 1, 2006, and that if owners want to eliminate two
teams for the 2007 season, they must notify the union by the
preceding July 1.

Under the deal, agreed to Aug. 30 just 2½ hours before the start
of a scheduled strike, a luxury tax on payrolls will be imposed
starting next year, with the 2003 threshold at $117 million.

Half the money raised by the luxury tax will be spent on the
benefit plan, 25 percent on the industry growth fund and 25 percent
to develop players in countries that do not play organized
high-school baseball or are being added to the amateur draft.

The deal increases the amount of shared local revenue from 20
percent to 34 percent, and requires that ''each club shall use its
revenue-sharing payments in an effort to improve its performance on
the field.''

"The commissioner shall enforce this obligation ... and may,
consistent with his authority under the Major League Constitution,
impose penalties on any clubs that violates this obligation," the
agreement said.

The maximum fine against a player by the commissioner's office
increases from $500 to $5,000 unless otherwise specified, and a new
rule bans bus travel during the season on trips of more than 200
miles except under ''extraordinary circumstances.''

A new provision says any season in which a player is optioned to
the minor leagues for less than 20 days will not count against the
limit of years a player can be optioned, which is three or four,
depending on his age when he first signed. In exchange, players get
major league service time for the period of those assignments.

Players with the right to block trades because they are 10-year
veterans who have been with their team for at least five years will
be able to waive those rights when signing multiyear contracts, but
only if the deal contains a clause allowing them to block trades to
16 or more clubs.

Management's contribution to the benefits plan increases from
$74 million this year to $113 million in 2003 and 2004, $114
million in 2005 and $115 million in 2006.