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Baseball set to toughen steroid tests

Baseball players and owners have agreed on a tougher steroid-testing program and plan to announce it today, the Associated Press reported.

The agreement will include penalties for first-time offenders, according to AP. Other details, such as the frequency of tests, were not immediately available.

Commissioner Bud Selig, asked about a steroid agreement at the owners meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., declined comment but did say: "We'll have announcements to make (today)." Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, also declined comment.

"I'm glad we could come to an agreement," said Cubs pitcher Mike Remlinger, who was briefed on the deal Wednesday. "It was the right thing to do. I think it was something that needed to be done, and I think players understand it needed to be addressed."

"I think it's important for baseball to reach an agreement, and I'm glad to see they did," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "The tougher the stance the better. It's good for the health of the game, and the health of the individuals taking those things."

The sides spent the past month negotiating the deal after the union's executive board voted that its staff pursue an agreement on more rigorous testing. Some in Congress threatened to take action unless baseball reached an agreement on its own, though it was questionable whether Congress could follow through.

"I think it's going to entail more testing, some out-season testing, yes, more in-season random testing and stiffer penalties," Mets pitcher and senior union member Tom Glavine said.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said he anticipated confirmation of a deal by the end of the owners' meeting.

"It will be wonderful once it's done, but I don't want to preempt any announcement, and I certainly don't want to preempt all the work the commissioner has done on this, so I'll reserve my comments until after it's announced," he said.

Players and owners agreed to a drug-testing plan in 2002 that called for survey testing for steroids the following year. Because slightly more than 5 percent of tests were positive, random testing with penalties began last year. Each player was tested for steroids twice over a single five- to seven-day period.

A first positive test resulted in treatment. If a player tested positive again, he would have been subject to a 15-day suspension.

No player was suspended for steroid use in 2004.

Since the 2002 agreement, baseball has come under increased scrutiny for steroid use. Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield testified before a federal grand jury in December 2003. Their testimony was illegally leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, which reported that Giambi and Sheffield admitted using steroids and that Bonds said he unwittingly said he used a substance containing steroids.

The source of the leak has not been identified.

"Everybody believed that the program we had in place was having an effect and definitely it was doing what it designed to do," Glavine said, "but having said that, with the stuff that was going on and whatnot, it forced us to take a look at revising it or making it a little tougher. It was not a question anymore if that agreement was going to be enough. It was a question to address some of the new issues that came to light and get our fans to believe we were doing everything we could to make the problem go away 100 percent."

At the owners meeting in Scottsdale, MLB officials said they are still targeting April for finding an owner for the Washington Nationals now that the new home of the former Montreal Expos has been determined.

"I would expect that we would start the diligence with the prospective buyers within a week to 10 days," DuPuy said.

Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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