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Flat-Footed, Baseball Moves Slowly

A fourth MVP, Barry Bonds, who once hit 73 home runs, has admitted through his lawyer to using two kinds of steroids, though he claims he didn't know that's what they were.

Hey, guys, look! I just gained 25 pounds of muscle. This "flaxseed oil" my trainer has been giving me is amazing stuff! How many people measure their "flaxseed oil" precisely? How many administer "flaxseed oil" on a regulated schedule? You wouldn't want to take an extra drop of "flaxseed oil" on the wrong day of the week. You might develop X-ray vision or buy a cape and start to fly.

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Finally, a tipping point has arrived with regard to steroids. And, once again, the proper course of action is obvious. Since 2001, baseball has had a minor league drug-testing policy that calls for four tests a year, including some in the offseason. Punishments start at a 15-day suspension for the first offense and, by the fifth offense, results in permanent suspension. Since '01, positive tests in the minors have shrunk from 9 percent to 4 percent.

Experts can debate whether this policy is strict enough. Baseball's instinct, especially if it anticipates an eventual showdown with the union, is to take a soft position, then talk bravely about it. The game might actually be better off if McCain cooked up a law with such sharp teeth that the union would think it was swimming in a pool of sharks.

What's most important is that players take back possession of their bodies and health. No one should have to take an illegal and dangerous drug just to compete on a level playing field. The notion that a union would work against drug testing that was designed to benefit its membership is immoral.

At this moment, every form of pressure is valuable. But none is as authentic, and as needed, as pressure from the game's honest players. John Smoltz and a few others have said they are disgusted. Now hundreds of other voices must join them.

One way or the other, whether the union likes it or not, baseball will have a much different policy on drug testing by Opening Day. The players have a choice. They can tell their leadership exactly what kind of strict steroid testing they want negotiated with the owners and specify what limits they demand on the invasion of their privacy. Or the majority of major leaguers can buckle before a minority of their members who have a selfish agenda. In that case, a bunch of politicians in Washington would start sticking their law-making noses into every player's private business.

Who do you trust more? Your union negotiating with your best interests finally at heart? Or Congress as the public howls?

What a choice. As usual in baseball, the answer is as obvious as it is overdue.

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