WADA head urges MLB to adopt its code

WADA head urges MLB to adopt its code

The World Anti-Doping Association urged Major League Baseball on Wednesday to adopt its stricter policy of a two-year suspension if any player tests positively for the first time for using performance-enhancing drugs.

The MLB Drug Policy, which has been collectively bargained and re-written three times with the Players Association, calls for a 50-game penalty without pay for the first positive test, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban with the right of seeking reinstatement after two years for a third.

Drug Policy in Baseball

WADA, which rules over such tournaments as the World Baseball Classic and the Olympic baseball tournament, specifies a lifetime ban for a second offense.

"MLB, the players and all those involved in the league need to clearly demonstrate that they are committed to ridding their sport from doping," WADA president John Fahey said in a statement Wednesday. "With recent cases, investigations and revelations, including in recently published books, the evidence is indisputable that doping remains an entrenched issue in baseball."

MLB Executive VP for Labor Relations Rob Manfred respectfully disagreed with the criticism.

"It is absurd to suggest that 'recently published books' -- which allege steroid use that occurred years ago -- have any relevance to our current program," Manfred told the Associated Press. "As demonstrated by recent events, when a player tests positive, the penalty is public and severe."

This suggestion has come up before and it has been baseball's position that a two-year suspension is justified for athletes who compete in events like the Summer and Winter Olympics, which occur every four years, but is not fair for competitors in a sport that boasts 162 games played almost every day from the beginning of April to the end of September.

"A first-time offender misses 50 competitive events. Even with a two-year ban, no Olympic athlete misses that many competitive events," Manfred told AP. "There is a reason why no major professional sport operates under the umbrella of the World Anti-Doping Agency. This reason is that officials like Mr. Fahey fail to appreciate that professional sports operate in a very different legal and competitive environment then do Olympic sports"

The union also hasn't agreed to the WADA standard of blood testing for baseball players, who are subject to indiscriminate urine tests throughout the year.

MLB's 50-game suspension of about one-third of the season is greater than the National Football League's four-game suspension for the use of PEDs, which constitutes one-quarter of their 16-game regular season.

For example, this year, Manny Ramirez served a 50-game suspension and had to forgo about $7 million of his $25 million, 2009 salary for violating the league's drug policy. Ramirez returned to action this past Friday when the Dodgers were in San Diego.

Fahey said baseball's current drug rules didn't go as far as recommendations made in late 2007 by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who was charged by Commissioner Bud Selig to author a report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. Mitchell named 89 former and current baseball players who he said at one time used PEDs.

"Unfortunately, while a number of incremental improvements were introduced in the MLB drug policy, following the release of the Mitchell Report in 2007, these elements fall far short of the universally accepted standards of the world anti-doping code," Fahey said. "If [MLB and the union has] nothing to hide, why don't they join the rest of the world under the umbrella of the code?"

Mitchell actually said in his lengthy report that MLB's current penalties were adequate and didn't need to be changed. He did recommend a bevy of administrative and educational provisions, including an MLB run Dept. of Investigations, which were all adopted last year by the owners and the union.

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.