RAY SUAREZ: The new steroid testing policy announced today comes after baseball has spent much of the off-season defending the integrity of the national pastime. Commissioner Bud Selig said there were two motivating factors for the changes.
BUD SELIG: I regarded this as not only a health issue, but certainly you could say it was an integrity issue in the sport.
RAY SUAREZ: The driving force behind the change: Charges that some of baseball's biggest stars have used performance-enhancing drugs.
A first offense will now trigger a suspension up to ten days; the old policy ordered treatment. A fourth positive test leads to a one-year suspension. Under the previous guidelines, that only happened after a fifth positive.
Each player will now be tested at least once a year; some will be selected for random, additional testing. Baseball will now test throughout the year. Previously, testing was only allowed from spring training through the end of the season. And baseball will be looking for more substances in those tests, including additional illegal performance enhancers and recreational drugs.
Pressure was applied by the president and members of Congress. Arizona's John McCain said the new agreement, while an improvement, does not go far enough.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: It's not quite as tough at least as far as first offense or a permanent ban for a fourth offense as minor league baseball is, and it certainly is a long way from the penalties enacted as far as Olympic athletes are concerned, but it's significant progress.
RAY SUAREZ: For more, we get two perspectives: Gary Wadler is a professor of medicine at New York University. He is also a member of the medical research committee at the World Anti-Doping Agency.
And David Cornwell is president of DNK Cornwell, a law firm that specializes in the sports industry. He formerly served as the assistant league counsel for the National Football League. He counseled the baseball player's union during its recent talks with the major leagues.
David Cornwell, today both the players union and the owners cited the need for a new testing regime. Does this get the game where it needs to be?
DAVID CORNWELL: I think it does. We'll have to see in the application of the policy, but with year-round testing, random testing, as well as significantly more severe discipline, I think we go a long way in solving the problems in baseball.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Wadler, do the new rules go far enough?
DR. GARY WADLER: In my judgment, it's just an incremental improvement. It does not go far enough. There are many details that are missing in all of this.
Certainly I believe that a ten-day suspension, although better than what we have today, is woefully inadequate as a deterrent; as is indicated in the setup piece, a two-year suspension is what exists for Olympic athletes under the world anti-doping code.
I also believe this is not only a matter about anabolic steroids. It's about all performance-enhancing drugs. With that regard, Bud Selig said today the policy is designed to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs, not just steroids.
And it's ironic that amphetamines are no longer -- were not included on the list, which is probably the quintessential drug long known to baseball as greenies, some of the best science done about performance enhancement, and yet it's no longer on the list.
RAY SUAREZ: David Cornwell, how about that omission? Is it a significant one to leave amphetamines off the list?
DAVID CORNWELL: I don't think it is. The effort to get your arms around stimulants is something that maybe we'll never be able to do completely. Nor do I think it's that relevant to compare this policy to what's done with the Olympic athletes.
The purpose of this policy was to achieve a specific objective in baseball, restore the public's confidence in the integrity of the game and install effective deterrents against the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It's not a ten-day suspension. It's a ten-game suspension.
In football there is a four-game suspension with increasing discipline with repeated positive tests. We've seen it work in football, and I would anticipate that it will work in baseball, as well.
RAY SUAREZ: Is a ten-game suspension in a 162-game season in your view equal to a four-game suspension in a 16-game season?
DAVID CORNWELL: Well, see, that's the point that I'm arguing against. I don't think that it's necessary or relevant to compare the policies across various leagues or sports organizations. The objective here is to ensure that we have a workable mechanism to collect, test and then discipline players who test positive, and right now I think the policy does that.
RAY SUAREZ: Dr. Wadler, how about that idea, you just have to serve baseball's needs, not bring baseball's code into line with those for other athletes?
DR. GARY WADLER: Well, I think baseball is not in lock step with the world, both the professional sports around the world as well as Olympic sports.
I don't even think it's in lock step with the National Football League. I believe this is working around the margins. I think it's intended to take some of the pressure off that exists both from the Congress as well as from the fans, but I think it falls far short of what has to be done.
Frankly, I think even the list of prohibited substances is not detailed. I would suggest that if, in fact, baseball does not want to adopt the world anti-doping code and its program, at a minimum it should adopt the list of prohibited substances.
The issue of stimulants has been well studied and is well defined in the existing lists that are available with respect to the world scene. The current list has been on the world scene only for the last 13 days, and I would suggest that rather than baseball inventing its own, it takes the collective wisdom of scientists and sports authorities throughout the world and adopts that as baseball's list.
RAY SUAREZ: You noted amphetamines not being on the list and that it falls short. But isn't it significant that human growth hormone was added, that androstene-dion, that came into question when Mark McGwire was shooting for his record; THG, which was at the center of this recent BALCO scandal, aren't this significant additions to the list?
DR. GARY WADLER: Well, with respect to androstene-dion, federal law did that job. It's been re-categorized as a controlled substance. So that really is no longer an issue, as is THG.
With respect to human growth hormone, it's nice to add it to the list, but the fact of the matter is the only way we can test for human growth hormone is with blood testing, and as I understand, there is no provision for blood testing for this program, and, in fact, human growth hormone testing was introduced in the Olympic games in Athens. We did 300 tests. Fortunately none were positive.
But to say you're going to test for human growth hormone and then not allow the very method for its detection to be incorporated into the program I think is somewhat disingenuous.
RAY SUAREZ: David Cornwell, the players have been very tough on this issue, bargaining very hard for every incremental step in changes in the rules. Did they do themselves a favor in this case in keeping the -- a full-scale regiment from being rolled out?
DAVID CORNWELL: I think they did an excellent job. The significance of today's announcement is that it demonstrates the players recognize their role as partners with the owners in preserving the public's confidence in the integrity of the game. This is a huge step for baseball. I happen to have my own views about the scope and nature of testing in the Olympic and amateur arena.
I happen to think it goes too far and doesn't recognize, for example, with respect to nutritional supplement, the numerous times athletes unknowingly ingest banned substances through the use of nutritional supplements, so I'm not quite sure that I can even agree with the premise that it's even relevant to compare this policy to what's going on in the world anti-doping environment.
But I will tell you that this policy is a huge step in the right direction. They have significant identified steroids that are prohibited as well as precursors and related substances, urine testing is the appropriate testing method for workplace environment of this size.
You could not do blood testing effectively in Major League Baseball. So this is an effective testing program, regime and with effective discipline to operate as a deterrent.
RAY SUAREZ: Does it still leave open the possibility, David Cornwell, of gaming the system, given the fact there is only one mandatory test a year and you may not have to face that -- giving that specimen again in a season?
DAVID CORNWELL: I tend to fall into the trap of using the term "periodic unscheduled" as opposed to random, but essentially the program works by a computer database that randomly picks a player's name or an assigned number to a player and then requires the player to test during the year.
So no player knows whether or not they're going to have to test again after spring training. So that operates as a deterrent, as well. Where the problems probably arise is in the science -- with efforts to beat the system with new compounds such as THC and efforts to get around the testing environment by coming up with undetectable substances; that's how the system can be gamed.
But the important thing here is we now have a policy in place that will be applied league-wide and level the playing field for all players in Major League Baseball.
RAY SUAREZ: David Cornwell, Dr. Wadler, gentlemen, thank you both.