Sun, Nov 16, 2003 - Page 22 News List

WADA chairman says MLB's steroid policy is a `joke'


Major League Baseball's policy on steroids is a "complete joke" and an "insult" to the fight against performance-enhancing drugs, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

WADA chairman Dick Pound criticized the testing system and scale of penalties for steroid use that will start in the major leagues next March.

He wasn't the only one who thought MLB's rules aren't tough enough.

A New York-based physician who is a member of WADA, Dr. Gary Wadler, called Thursday's announcement of baseball's test results "probably the blackest day in the history of sports." Between 5 and 7 percent of anonymous steroid tests among major leaguers came back positive, triggering a provision in the sport's labor contract that calls for testing with penalties starting next year.

A first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to US$10,000.

The punishment would increase to a 25-day suspension or fine of up to US$25,000 for a third positive test, a 50-day suspension or fine of up to US$50,000 for a fourth and a one-year suspension or fine of up to US$100,000 for a fifth.

"I think it's an insult to the fight against doping in sport, an insult to the intelligence of the American public and an insult to the game itself," Pound said.

"I think it's a complete and utter joke. You can test positive for steroids five times, then they think of booting you out for a year? Give me a break. The first time someone has knowingly cheated and they give you counseling? It's a complete and utter joke."

Under the anti-doping agency's code, which has been adopted by most Olympic sports, an athlete faces a minimum two-year ban for a first steroid positive and a lifetime ban for a second.

The IAAF is considering increasing its first-time steroid ban from two years to four.

Wadler said the percentage of positive tests should be unacceptable to MLB.

"If they were talking about the numbers they're talking about, and it turns out most are not related to dietary supplements, I think this is probably the blackest day in the history of sports," he said.

"Taking drugs of that sort to enhance performance violates the public trust. I believe they're responsible to their fans in terms of being a role model. The impact, I think is absolutely egregious."

Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations, declined comment when told of Pound's remarks. On Thursday, Manfred said ``a positive rate of 5 percent is hardly the sign that you have rampant use of anything.''

Gene Orza, the union's No. 2 official, was traveling Friday and could not be contacted. He said Thursday that the results showed claims of widespread steroid use in MLB "were wildly inflated."

Pound said WADA would probably make an official complaint to the Major League commissioner's office about the sport's drug policy, which was negotiated last year with the players' association.

Pound said he was surprised there weren't more positive tests in baseball this season. He said tests were given only for a certain category of steroids and missed out on "all kinds of stuff that players take on a regular basis."

Pound, a Canadian lawyer, has been a frequent critic of drug testing in the US and its professional leagues.

"They're not generally seen to be active in the fight against doping in sport," he said. "There's a lot of PR. They have turned it into a management-labor issue, which almost guarantees that no progress will be made."

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