Selig sees progress with tougher drug policy

Notebook

July 12, 2006|By DAN CONNOLLY | DAN CONNOLLY,SUN REPORTER

PITTSBURGH -- Baseball still has work to do to clean up performance-enhancing substances in the game, but its top official staunchly believes his sport is now the toughest on performance-enhancing substances.

Commissioner Bud Selig, in his annual luncheon with the Baseball Writers' Association of America, continually championed baseball's revamped drug policy, pointing out that only one player has been suspended this season compared with a dozen in 2005. He also said he is especially proud of this year's agreement between baseball and the players union that bans amphetamines.

"I really think steroid use has been minimized," Selig said. "We are under 1 percent [of players testing positive in 2005]. We will be [less] than that this year. Amphetamines, we are doing OK. I know it is tough, it is going to change the habits of a lot of people."

Selig said various club medical personnel have warned him in the past that if something wasn't done about amphetamines, the drug commonly referred to as "greenies," it would eventually lead to the death of a player.

"The use of amphetamines seems to bother all the medical people the most," Selig said. "And that worries me."

The amphetamine ban took hold before the 2006 season and Selig claims "it is working." When pressed for details, however, he refused to reveal numbers of failed amphetamine tests because first-time failures are not announced as part of the collective bargaining agreement. There have been no second-test failures.

Selig also discussed his concerns about human growth hormone, which received vast media attention after former Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley was investigated by federal officials for possessing the drug without a prescription. Although baseball bans the substance, it is undetectable through urine testing, and the CBA prohibits blood testing, which, for hGH, is not widely accessible and is in the developmental stage.

"We need a [hGH] test and we are going to do everything we can to get that test as quickly as we can," Selig said.

Meanwhile, the commissioner said he doesn't think hGH usage is a rampant problem within baseball.

"I'm neither a scientist, a chemist or a doctor, but according to the people who are supposed to know, they believe [hGH] is not a huge statistical problem right now," Selig said. "Are they right? I hope they are."

As the sport enters collective bargaining negotiations this winter, Selig said he believes baseball as an economic entity has never been stronger -- the sport is on pace to break its 74.9 million attendance record of 2005, Selig said.

Tinkering with the current revenue-sharing system also will help further to "even the playing field," he said. On other topics, Selig said he didn't see an abolishment of the designated hitter anytime soon and the future of baseball in South Florida is tied directly to the building of a new stadium for the Florida Marlins.

2008 All-Star Game

Selig said he hasn't made a decision on which city will host the 2008 All-Star Game but will do so shortly. He said there are several possibilities, including New York, which hasn't hosted an All-Star Game since 1977.

With two consecutive games in National League parks (2006 Pittsburgh, 2007 San Francisco), the All-Star Game likely will be moved to an American League park, so Yankee Stadium is the odds-on favorite. The Orioles, who last hosted in 1993, have not made a proposal to Selig, but might in the near future, a club official said.

Three up for award

The BBWAA announced its three finalists for its annual J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented to a baseball writer of distinction at each July's Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y. The finalists are the late Morris Siegel, who worked for several Washington D.C.-based papers; Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and Nick Peters of The Sacramento Bee.

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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