The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) feels MLB “isn’t taking the issue of doping seriously” and called for changes by the league and the MLBPA in the wake of Manny Ramirez return from a 50 game suspension for being in violation of the league’s drug testing policy, as well as Alex Rodriguez’ admission that he used steroids from 2001-03 while playing for the Texas Rangers.
“MLB, the players and all those involved in the league need to clearly demonstrate that they are committed to ridding their sport from doping,” said WADA’s President John Fahey. “With recent cases, investigations and revelations, including in recently published books, the evidence is indisputable that doping remains an entrenched issue in baseball. Unfortunately, while a number of incremental improvements were introduced in the MLB anti-doping program following the release of the Mitchell Report in 2007, these elements fall far short of the universally accepted standards of the World Anti-Doping Code. If they have nothing to hide, why don’t the MLB and the MLBPA join the rest of the world under the umbrella of the Code?”
The “Code” is in reference to WADA’s testing code and calls for a lifetime ban from a given sport after a second positive test.
Major League Baseball and the players’ union have made three changes to baseball’s drug policy (see the current Joint Drug Agreement) since being implemented in August of 2002.
Baseball executives bristled at Fahey's comments, when reached by Ronald Blum of The AP:
MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred quickly dismissed criticism by WADA president John Fahey, calling him "sadly misinformed." The current policy calls for 50-game suspensions for first offenses, 100-game penalties for second offenses and lifetime bans for third violations.
"It is absurd to suggest that 'recently published books' -- which allege steroid use that occurred years ago -- have any relevance to our current program," Manfred said. "As demonstrated by recent events, when a player tests positive, the penalty is public and severe."
Manfred said baseball's rules are appropriate for a unionized professional sport.
"A first-time offender misses 50 competitive events. Even with a two-year ban, no Olympic athlete misses that many competitive events," he said. "There is a reason why no major professional sport operates under the umbrella of the World Anti-Doping Agency. This reason is that officials like Mr. Fahey fail to appreciate that professional sports operate in a very different legal and competitive environment than do Olympic sports"
"It is unfortunate that Mr. Fahey chooses to address his comments to matters that occurred years ago, which is something he should have realized," added Donald Fehr, the outgoing Executive Director of the MLBPA. "After the Mitchell Report, Sen. Mitchell and others publicly indicated their satisfaction with the changes made. It is clear that we have both a a strong and a demonstrably effective program."
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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