Pubdate: Mon, 17 Jan 2005
Source: Waco Tribune-Herald (TX)
Copyright: 2005 Waco-Tribune Herald


Major League Baseball and the players union have made a gesture toward 
eliminating cheating with a new drug-testing program.

But for the long-term health of the sport, and its athletes, baseball needs 
a much stronger drug policy than this.

Big league baseball is best appreciated by people who have studied the 
history of sport's detailed statistics and can analyze and compare 
historical stats to today's players and teams.

That's why cheating hurts the entire sport throughout history.

Once baseball statistics become meaningless, there won't be enough left of 
the sport for a good seventh-inning stretch.

A large but unknown number of big league players have been cheating for 
years by taking performance-enhancing drugs that give them an unfair edge 
over players who do not seek an unnatural chemical advantage.

It took a call from the president of the United States, a threat of 
legislation from Congress, years of press reports of scandalous cheating by 
big stars and an overwhelming call for change from baseball fans before the 
player's union finally agreed to the negotiated settlement announced by 
Commissioner Bud Selig last Thursday.

While any change to increase testing for performance-enhancing drugs is an 
improvement, the fans and the game of baseball deserve a drug-testing 
policy that restores the integrity of the game. The new policy is Major 
League Baseball's second strike.

For starters, MLB should have a drug-testing policy that is at least as 
strong as the one used in the minor leagues. The new one doesn't come close.

In the minors, players are tested for "greenies," a common pregame favorite 
in MLB. Greenies are amphetamines, an illegal controlled drug that acts as 
a temporary stimulant and causes harmful side effects.

The new policy bans human growth hormones, which are a serious problem. But 
it prohibits blood tests, which are the only way to catch cheaters.

The permitted urine tests cannot determine if human growth hormones have 
been used. So, until scientists invent a way to test urine for human growth 
hormones, cheaters can keep on cheating.

The new MLB drug-testing requirement calls for a 10-day suspension for the 
first offense, compared to 15 games in the minor leagues.

Across the board, the penalties for cheating in the big leagues are milder 
than those in the minor leagues. For the sake of the sport, this must change.
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