Players approve new steroid agreement

Players approve new steroid agreement

DALLAS -- Three weeks after Major League Baseball's owners unanimously ratified a new drug policy restricting the use of performance-enhancing drugs and amphetamines, the players association followed suit and made it official.

The uncontested vote came during the end of Thursday's annual executive board meeting of the players association, this year held in Henderson, Nev. The session was attended by 40 to 50 players and there was no dissension. The executive board has the authority to endorse such issues as long as there is agreement among the rank-and-file players.

"There was no opposition," said Don Fehr, the long-time executive director of the union.

On Nov. 17, the owners voted 30-0 in favor of the new program, which penalizes a player using steroids 50 games for the first positive test, 100 games for the second and bans him for life (with reinstatement rights after two years) for the third. Those penalties are up from the current sanctions -- 10 days for the first offense, 30 days for the second, 60 days for the third, and a one-year suspension for the fourth.

The penalties for amphetamine use are not as harsh in the early stages. A player testing positive for the first time is subject to mandatory evaluation and follow-up testing. Subsequent positive tests carry suspensions of 25 games, 80 games and finally a lifetime ban.

Under increasing pressure from Congress, for the second time this year the union took the unprecedented step of re-opening a signed agreement with the owners to make changes in the drug policy, a prospect that may auger well for negotiations when collective bargaining opens for a new Basic Agreement sometime next year.

The current Basic Agreement, which was negotiated in 2002 and included random testing for steroids without probable cause for the first time, expires on Dec. 19, 2006.

The drug policy, which was first revised this past January, was separated from the Basic Agreement at that time and now runs until 2008.

"Obviously, the fact the issue was front and center had a role to play in it," Fehr said. "Nobody preferred legislation."

Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, said last month that baseball had received assurances from Congressional leaders that pending legislation in both branches wouldn't move forward if the final language in the agreement mirrored the points that had been presented to them by MLB and union officials.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. The Associated Press contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.