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Activists Focus on Drug Testing for Dominicans

Friday, April 15, 2005; Page D14

Activists delivered a symbolic coffin to Commissioner Bud Selig's office yesterday, urging Major League Baseball to do more to test Dominican prospects for performance-enhancing drugs.

"If they send a message to the amateur players that before they sign a contract they will be drug-tested, they will clean up the system almost immediately," said Fernando Mateo, who leads a group called Hispanics Across America.

Mateo met with baseball officials last year and was promised they would begin a drug-testing program in the Dominican summer league, which comprises mostly of teenage prospects. Mateo said not enough has been done.

"What we have requested from Major League Baseball repeatedly is that they should test these kids before they sign a contract," he said. "They have refused to do that because they say it's very expensive. What could be expensive in a multibillion-dollar industry -- for them to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to test these kids on a regular basis?"

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations, said baseball is "committed to eradicating illegal performance-enhancing substances" in the majors, minor leagues and the Dominican Republic and "wherever Major League Baseball has jurisdiction."

Manfred said baseball would increase testing this year, but added, "Unfortunately, the laws in the Dominican Republic forbid us from suspending steroid violators and make the operation of an optimal program more difficult."

Baseball began steroid-testing with penalties last year, and this year started penalizing first-time offenders, who previously were sent for counseling.

Of the players on major league and minor league rosters born outside the United States, more of them came from the Dominican Republic than anywhere else.

SO FAR, SO GOOD: Always his harshest critic, Florida's Josh Beckett knows better than to exult in his latest flash of brilliance.

Beckett, 24, wants it to last, because that's the only way he'll shake his reputation as an immature, injury-prone underachiever who has failed to fulfill the potential he showed in the 2003 postseason.

As the ace of a staff that's off to the best start in baseball, Beckett is 2-0 with an ERA of 0.00 going into his third game of the season today against the Mets in New York. He professes to be unimpressed.

"It's early," Beckett said. "Just because I'm 2-0 doesn't mean I'm going to win 20 games."

-- From News Services

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