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MLB, Union Approach Agreement

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has promised to propose legislation in Congress to force tougher testing standards if baseball does not impose those standards itself by January. Selig has said publicly he would welcome McCain's actions if an agreement cannot be reached.

It was unclear yesterday whether McCain would be willing to accept a modified testing program that would be tougher than the current one, but not as tough as the one Selig and McCain would like.

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"At this point, he is waiting to see what comes out of the negotiations," said an aide to the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain chairs.

"Is he willing to compromise? That's one of the options, sure. But at this point, he'll withhold his opinion until a decision is reached within baseball."

Fehr said he has had periodic discussions with McCain, but played down the effect of congressional pressure on the negotiating process.

"Certainly the fact that individuals are indicating a desire that we bring this to conclusion is not an irrelevant factor," Fehr said. "But we are proceeding in the manner that we thought we would anyway."

According to league sources, Selig has also investigated the option of invoking his "in-the-best-interests-of-the-game" powers to unilaterally impose the league's proposed testing policy.

However, league officials see this is a high-risk, last-ditch strategy that they acknowledge is not winnable if challenged through legal channels; instead, it would be a means of forcing the union to be proactive in maintaining the status quo.

Former commissioner Fay Vincent said such a strategy on the part of Selig would be foolish.

"The union would immediately challenge it, and win," Vincent said, "and the only result would be a very stinging rebuke from a federal judge who is upset because his time was wasted."

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