Fehr tells Congress: You ban them first

Baseball union chief says players only using same enhancing drugs as public


March 11, 2004|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Donald Fehr, chief of the Major League Baseball Players Association, defended his union's stance on drug testing during a congressional hearing yesterday, even as Sen. John McCain threatened to legislate solutions for doping.

One of several sports leaders appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee headed by McCain, Fehr said baseball players shouldn't be prohibited from using products legally available to the public and challenged Congress to ban performance-enhancing substances such as androstenedione.

"I urge you to consider the law - top to bottom. If that's not good public policy, change it," Fehr said. "If androstenedione is safe enough to be sold freely in stores and shelves ... you can't expect professional athletes to suggest that they are somehow different from anyone else who can go into the store and buy something that anyone can buy."

Fehr's position stood opposite the others who spoke at the hearing yesterday, which included baseball commissioner Bud Selig, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, NFL Players Association head Gene Upshaw and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief Terry Madden.

At one point, McCain, an Arizona Republican, threatened to act if the sport doesn't clean up but any congressional action remained unspecified.

"Your failure to address these issues straight on will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies," he said. "I don't know what they are, but I can tell you ... that the status quo is not acceptable."

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a member of the owners committee that bargained with the union over the last contract in 2002, said Fehr's arguments add "nothing to the discussion" and hoped the players association would cooperate with the league in the same way the NFL had done with its players union.

"Our game is in the same position that Paul Tagliabue is in, but what we need is cooperation from the players," said Angelos, who attended in support of Selig. "Maybe he will see the errors of his ways in the future."

The hearing came amid a federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), tied to stars Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants - who set the sport's home run record of 73 in 2001 - and the New York Yankees' Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.

And today, Sens. Orrin G. Hatch and Joseph R. Biden Jr. are expected to announce a bill that would amend the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 to include THG (tetrahydrogestrinone) and androstenedione.

THG is a previously unknown steroid that surfaced in the BALCO investigation. Androstenedione, a legal steroid substitute, became visible in 1998 when it was found in the locker of slugger Mark McGwire during his successful assault on baseball's single-season home run record.

Members of the committee that met yesterday saw the issue as a matter of integrity in a sport consumed by the public, particularly by children and young adults, thus underlining its importance.

"It's important that youngsters recognize the importance of fair play, self-discipline, and doing it without performance-enhancing drugs," said Sen. George F. Allen, a Virginia Republican. "And the union should care about their players. I can't imagine any union supposedly representing the players who would want to literally shorten the lives of players."

In the spring of 2002, former Most Valuable Player award winners Ken Caminiti (1996) and Jose Canseco (1988) alleged rampant steroid use within the sport, and the revelations helped lead to the first agreement for steroid testing between the baseball's owners and the players union in August that year.

Selig said he would like to see the majors adopt the reforms the minor leagues began in 2001, with features similar to doping policies used by the NFL and Madden's USADA. All would require year-round random testing, with tougher penalties than the ones agreed upon by the owners and the union.

This has been the case since 1990 in the NFL, where the owners and players union appear to be in concert on this matter.

"Our players were leaders in this area," said Upshaw. "They demanded that we get it out of football, period. We're not concerned about privacy or search and seizure. I know the other guy over there is using it, and we want it out of the game.'"

With mandatory testing being conducted for the first time this year, Fehr said calls for tweaking the system are premature.


Yesterday's results

Florida (ss) 15, Orioles 7 Boston 4, St. Louis 3 Cincinnati 6, Tampa Bay 1 Montreal 7, Cleveland (ss) 5 Toronto (ss) 13, Pittsburgh 11 Minnesota 5, N.Y. (AL) (ss) 3 Detroit (ss) 9, Cleveland (ss) 8 Toronto (ss) 8, N.Y. (AL) (ss) 2 Detroit (ss) 7, Los Angeles (ss) 6 Seattle 7, Anaheim 1 Texas 8, San Francisco 2 Milwaukee 8, Colorado (ss) 5 Oakland (ss) 6, San Diego 3 Arizona 13, Chicago (NL) (ss) 7 Chicago (NL) (ss) 8, Oakland (ss) 3 Kansas City 9, Chicago (AL) (ss) 6 Houston 1, New York (NL) 0 Atlanta 5, Philadelphia 0 Los Angeles (ss) 4, Florida (ss) 3 Colorado (ss) 6, Chicago (AL) (ss) 5

Today's games

In Florida

Orioles vs. Boston at Fort Myers, 1:05 Minnesota vs. Florida at Jupiter, 1:05 Cincinnati vs. Toronto at Dunedin, 1:05 Atlanta vs. Cleveland at Winter Haven, 1:05 St. Louis vs. Los Angeles at Vero Beach, 1:05 Pittsburgh (ss) vs. Houston at Kissimmee, 1:05 Phila. (ss) vs. T. Bay at St. Petersburg, 1:05 Pittsburgh (ss) vs. Phila. (ss) at Clearwater, 1:05 Montreal vs. N.Y. (NL) at Port St. Lucie, 7:10 Detroit vs. New York (AL) at Tampa, 7:15

In Arizona

Oakland vs. Milwaukee at Phoenix, 3:05 Arizona vs. Anaheim at Tempe, 3:05 Colorado vs. Chicago (NL) at Mesa, 3:05 San Francisco vs. Texas at Surprise, 3:05 Kansas City vs. Seattle at Peoria, 3:05 San Diego vs. Chicago (AL) at Tucson, 3:05

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