After months of accusations and innuendo about steroid use in Major League Baseball, players from various teams applauded the announcement yesterday of the historic new steroid agreement.
"It's another step in the right direction," Baltimore Orioles outfielder and union player representative Jay Gibbons said. "It just shows we really mean business. It's good for the fans. I think it will end all the controversy. We've been facing questions in the locker room. It was just time to put it to rest."
Commissioner Bud Selig meets the press on the day tougher steroid measures were announced by MLB.
(Roy Dabner -- AP)
_____ What's New? _____ • New Deal: Players who test positive for steroids for the first time will be subject to a 10-day suspension. Under old agreement, they were sent for counseling. In Olympic sports, a first positive test results in a two-year ban.
• Around the world: There will be random testing during the offseason for the first time, including outside the United States.
• Not included: No testing for amphetamines. No blood tests for human growth hormone.
The new agreement, which is unprecedented in that it changes the sport's basic agreement in the middle of its term, differs from the previous pact in that it calls for harsher penalties for first-time offenders, and mandates frequent and offseason testing.
"The punishment is good," Washington Nationals third baseman Vinny Castilla said. "People that cheat, they need to be punished. That's the only way we're going to keep the game clean."
Each player will be tested once. Some picked randomly will be tested another time. First-time offenders will receive a 10-game suspension, second-time offenders receive a 30-day ban, and three-time offenders are suspended for 60 days. A fourth positive result warrants a year suspension. A fifth violation calls for a penalty determined by the commissioner. The new agreement also bans the use of human growth hormones, designer steroids and masking agents.
"It's going to be a clean game," St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ray King told MLB.com. "You're going to get tested, and if you test positive, we don't care if you're the best player in the league or you just walked in the league a day ago. Everybody is on the same playing field."
"For the fans' sake, it is a way of cleaning up the game," Seattle Mariners outfielder Randy Winn told MLB.com. "For the players' sake, it is a way of leveling the playing field."
The previous steroid plan, enacted in 2002, was criticized because it did not punish offenders until a second positive test. An initial positive result only called for counseling. Only until a fifth positive test result was a player suspended for an entire year. No player was suspended last year because of steroids.
But Gibbons said that statistics from last year's testing, which have not been released, would reveal a considerable drop in positive steroid results.
"I was a big fan of the old policy," said Detroit Tigers catcher Vance Wilson, previously the New York Mets' player representative prior to being traded this offseason. "In the grand scheme of things it could get better. It did. I think it will bring the integrity back to the game quicker."
Baseball suffered a hit to its reputation when leaked testimony from the federal grand jury of the BALCO investigation revealed that San Francisco Giants superstar outfielder Barry Bonds, a player only 52 home runs from tying Hank Aaron's career mark of 755, and New York Yankees' outfielder Jason Giambi used steroids. Bonds claimed he unknowingly used the banned substance.
"It's put a little black eye obviously," Gibbons said. "This [new policy] will bring light to what's fact and what's not. It's a good thing for guys that lift weights and do work hard and then get fingers pointed at them. The finger pointing will stop."
"It didn't hurt us as far as losing fan base," Wilson said. "The fact that it could be better and that we don't want to have things looming like this. We want people to focus what's on the field. Now the product on the field is honest and true."
The agreement must be ratified by the players union -- a step that appears to be a formality.
"The majority of the players want a level playing field," Wilson said. "When you have the majority wanting it, it's not a big deal."