Selig again defends MLB's stance on drugs

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Steroids and Barry Bonds dominate the baseball news.

What will be of the legacy of Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa?

"I remember reading something Whitey Herzog said," Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said yesterday about the ex-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. "He was quoted as saying cocaine affected the outcome of more games than steroids ever did.

"We overcame the cocaine era of the 1980s and we'll get past the steroid era, too."

Selig was making his annual all-star state of the union address at a Baseball Writers of America Association luncheon yesterday at the William Penn Hotel.

STRANGE PRESSER

We remember being in Pittsburgh with the Montreal Expos in the 1980s when a press conference was staged. It was during the cocaine drug trials of which Selig spoke.

The presser was held by the Pirate Parrot, the team mascot whose first words were, "I am not involved in the cocaine ring." As Shakespeare always said, the parrot doth protest too loudly. The dirty bird eventually was arrested.

Only one player has tested positive for steroids this year -- New York Mets minor leaguer Yusaku Iriki. He was suspended 50 games. A year ago under the old drug plan he would have received a 10-day penalty.

That led Selig to boast Major League Baseball had the toughest drug program in sports.

"I really think steroid use has been minimized," Selig said.

The next battlefield is amphetamines.

"Doctors and trainers expressed more concern about this than anything else," Selig said. "One told me, 'If you don't do something about this, somebody is going to die.' "

Selig admitted the first positive test does not cause for the release of a player's name. He was asked if there had been any positive tests from this strongest drug testing program in sports?

"Amphetamine testing is working," he said. Take that answer any way you want.

"We're going to change the habits of people. But we need to stay ahead of the curve," Selig said. "Technology is exploding, and there are other things to come no question about it. There is no use kidding yourself."

Under the new drug policy, a positive test for amphetamine use results in mandatory additional testing. A second offence triggers a 25-game suspension and the punishment increases to 80 games for a third failed test.

In June, Arizona Diamondbacks' Jason Grimsley was suspended 50 games a week after federal agents raided his home in an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. He was penalized based on his alleged possession and use of human growth hormone.

"There is no test for HGH," Selig said. Selig said MLB is unable to test for human growth hormone since a reliable test does not exist and the body produces its own HGH. He said he conferred with the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal.

As he did last year, Selig used the term "golden era of baseball," while pointing out that the game is in position to set a second successive attendance record. In 2005 baseball drew 74 million fans.

Selig reflected on McGwire's home run chase of September 1998 saying: "I remember the great joy, McGwire hugging the Maris family, the great celebration. Now, eight years later it's easy to say ..."

NO EVIDENCE

While he was aware critics say baseball should have reacted sooner to its steroid problems, Selig said he had no concrete evidence then.

"I can't deal with gossip," he said. "Looking back, I wouldn't do anything different than I did."

Jose Canseco, admitted steroids user, recently called MLB the "Mafia" and said Palmeiro was set-up to testify before Congress when he already had tested positive. Palmeiro went before Congress March 14. He tested positive May 4.

"Anything that unduly influences performance on the field leads to an integrity problem," Selig said. "One reason fans are pouring into parks is they think we care and we're doing something about it."

Meanwhile, a grand jury continues to look into whether Bonds perjured himself when he testified to another grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly took steroids or other banned performance-enhancing drugs.

In addition, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's drug investigation into steroid use in baseball continues.


Videos

Photos