Selig seeking tougher penalties for PED use
Commissioner asks league, MLBPA to begin discussions on stricter punishments
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While he is proud of the progress Major League Baseball has made toward eliminating the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Commissioner Bud Selig said there is more that needs to be done.
With that in mind, Selig has asked Rob Manfred, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, to sit down with Michael Weiner, Major League Baseball Players Association executive director, to discuss stiffening the current penalties for those who test positive for banned substances.
"If people want to continue to do what they shouldn't do, then the one thing that you have to do is you have to have stricter penalties," Selig said at Salt River Fields. "It's as simple as that."
Under the current Basic Agreement, which runs through 2016, players who test positive for a banned substance receive a 50-game suspension. A second positive test results in a 100-game suspension, and players caught for a third time receive a lifetime ban.
Earlier this year, MLB and the MLBPA reached agreement on adding random unannounced in-season blood tests for human growth hormone. Baseline testosterone readings will be taken at the same time to make it easier to detect the use of synthetic testosterone.
The testing program now in place is the strictest of the major U.S. sports and has drawn praise from the World Anti-Doping Agency.
On his desk, Selig keeps a press release that WADA put out complimenting the program to remind him of the progress that's been made.
"I've always wanted [fans] to understand that I'll always regard cleaning up this situation as something I'm very proud of," Selig said. "But you've got to work at it, you've got to work at it every day. You can never rest, because certainly the chemists aren't resting."
Selig declined to specify the changes he would like to see made to the penalties as to not interfere with upcoming negotiations between Manfred and Weiner.
"I promised myself that I wouldn't get in the way of what Rob and Michael do, but I would change everything," Selig said. "Change is always inevitable. You see how a program works. The program is working fine, but I've come to the conclusion, the more I've thought about this, that obviously there's some people, a small minority, who need to be given a tougher lesson."
In recent weeks several players have spoken out in favor of stiffening the penalties, and Weiner seemed to be open to such a proposal in comments he made earlier this week.
The issue has been brought to the forefront again over the last month as several Major Leaguers were connected to the Miami-based Biogenesis of America clinic that's been linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
"That's an active discussion right now," Weiner said earlier this week. "There are certainly some players who have expressed [a desire for tougher penalties], some of them after the Miami [Biogenesis] allegations. We are at a point, and it's clear where the majority of players are: They want a clean game, and we want to make it clear to players that is where the majority is at."
Those comments by Weiner, as well as by various Major League players who have said they want stiffer penalties, caught the attention of Selig.
"Whether we'll agree on this or not I don't know yet," Selig said. "I was encouraged by Michael's comments and I was very encouraged by significant number of players' comments. I want to say I'm very proud of our players, the great majority -- underscore the majority -- really, really have been terrific and I give the Players Association a lot of credit. We had lots of problems two decades ago, 10 years ago, but I'm confident that Michael and Rob will sit down. I feel very strongly about this."
While Weiner said in his comments earlier this week that stiffer penalties are something that the two sides would discuss "over the course of 2013," Selig is hoping for a much quicker timetable.
"As soon as possible, I really feel very strongly about it," Selig said. "This is not something we ought to wait around on. This is something we should do quickly, expeditiously."
Joe Torre, a former big league manager and the current MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, said he can understand why players want to make sure offenders are caught and punished. The players who are not using banned substances are tired of being lumped in with those who do.
"It's easy to paint them all with the same brush," Torre said. "And I think you have players who have conducted themselves proudly. It's just not fair. Until we can gain the total respect back of the fans and have them trust us again we've got work to do."