Anti-steroid initiative launched

Anti-steroid initiative launched

SAN DIEGO -- Using the final game of the inaugural World Baseball Classic as a backdrop, Major League Baseball and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America launched the second phase of a two-year anti-steroid initiative on Monday.

The latest Public Service Announcement was broadcast during the Japan-Cuba championship game, which ended the 17-day international baseball tournament, the first to include Major League players. It showed a baseball, basketball, soccer ball and football deflating one by one as a narrator described the dangers of using steroid-based drugs.

The campaign is aimed at high school students, who may use steroids to excel competitively in scholastic sports.

"While a large part of our focus has been to regulate the game on the field, we are equally concerned about the dangerous effects that steroids and other performance enhancing substances can have on our youth," Commissioner Bud Selig said during a pregame press conference. "Since 2001, Major League Baseball and the Partnership For a Drug Free America have worked together to promote anti-drug messaging to America's youth and their parents."

As part of the latest initiative MLB and the Partnership intend to give high school coaches posters and other paraphernalia as teaching aids in the campaign, which hammers out the message that steroids can have a deleterious effect on the body and often leads to death.

The plan is to test this part of the program this season in New Jersey.

"I'm excited about our upcoming pilot campaign with high school coaches to incorporate the anti-steroid messages in locker rooms and school buildings throughout New Jersey," Selig said. "These efforts demonstrate our strong belief that when young athletes are presented the facts, they will make safe and responsible choices."

Selig noted that the latest campaign comes after MLB and the players association negotiated changes in the Major League drug policy last year, which again intensifies the penalties for any player on the expanded 40-man rosters of each MLB club, testing positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

This season, a player testing positive for the first time will be suspended for 50 games, a second time for 100 games, and will receive a lifetime ban with right of appeal for the third offense.

Last year, when the initial penalty was a 10-day suspension, only 12 players tested positive.

In the current tournament, being played under heightened international drug rules negotiated two years ago by MLB, the union and the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), no Major League player has tested positive. Only Korean pitcher Myung Hwan Park tested was banned from the tournament this past weekend for failing a drug test. But Gene Orza, the chief operating officer of the union, said on Monday that there may have been mitigating circumstances and that Park has the right to appeal.

The International Baseball Federation has yet to sanction Park, Orza said. The penalty is a two-year suspension from international play.

But Steve Pasierb, the president and chief executive for the Partnership, said that the research done by his organization has found no link between the use of steroids at the scholastic level with the use of performance-enhancing drugs by professional players.

"When we looked at the research we didn't really see teens saying, 'I need to use steroids because I want to make it to the Major League or the professional sports level,'" Pasierb said. "We did hear young males talk about considering using steroids to make themselves stronger, but it was really limited to strength and more of a much more personal approach."

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