According to anonymous sources, Major League Baseball and the Players Association have agreed to a new steroid policy, which calls for a 50-game suspension for the first positive test, 100 games for the second, and a lifetime ban (appealable after two years) for the third offense. The new agreement also included testing for amphetamines, with different consequences. The first positive test results in an automatic second test. A second positive calls for a 25-game suspension, with 80 games for a third positive. The consequences for a fourth positive test are left to the commissioner’s discretion, with all decisions reviewed by an arbitrator.
I think this is a positive step for baseball, especially if it will get Congress off its back. But after reading all the reports in ESPN the Magazine, I still can’t help thinking that the issue here isn’t as much in the penalties as in the actual testing. According to BALCO head-weiner Victor Conte, the current testing system is very easy to beat. As long as that is the case, it won’t matter how tough the penalties are, because only the stupid people will get caught anyway.
So yes, this is a good step forward, but until there is an effective (and flexible, to account for new technology) testing plan in place, there is still work to be done.