NEW YORK - Baseball commissioner Bud Selig insisted Wednesday that baseball’s current drug-testing program was working, saying the reason he proposed even tougher rules last month was to stop suspicion.
“Just the impugning of one’s integrity and the sport’s integrity is something that we just can’t allow,” Selig said after owners unanimously endorsed his plan. “Is it unfair? Yeah, I believe it is unfair, but we have to do something about it so we quit talking about it.”
Selig’s steroids proposal, made to the union last month, calls for a 50-game ban for first offenders, a 100-game penalty for second offenders and a lifetime ban for a third positive test. It also would penalize use of amphetamines and have an outside expert run the program.
“This became fairly or unfairly an integrity issue, an integrity issue of everybody in the sport, starting with the commissioner. And that, frankly, is what has driven me,” Selig said. “Whether the program is working today is not the issue because I think we would agree with the players’ association it is working. That isn’t the issue because the integrity issue transcends that.”
Management and the union agreed to toughened rules in January that included 10-day suspensions for first-time offenders starting this year. But Selig decided even stricter rules were necessary and made his proposal to the union April 25.
“The only variable that really changed was Jose Canseco,” Selig said. “As a result of all that, there’s been a lot of comment. And whether I think it’s fair or unfair is irrelevant.”
In an autobiography released in February, Canseco detailed his allegations of widespread steroid use in baseball, and many players denied his charges. He repeated some of them at a congressional hearing on March 17, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were among several past and present stars to testify.
Several congressmen have called for legislation on steroid testing. Several have proposed that baseball appoint an investigator to examine what occurred over the years.
“It’s been a subject of ongoing discussion,” Selig said.
Union head Donald Fehr, who said he would discuss Selig’s proposal with management, declined comment after Selig’s news conference.
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