NEW YORK — Baseball players suspended during the season for a performance-enhancing drug violation will not be eligible for that year’s postseason under changes to the sport’s drug agreement announced Friday.
In the most significant toughening to the drug rules in eight years, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association said the penalty will increase from 50 games to 80 for a first testing violation and from 100 games to a season-long 162 for a second. A third violation remains a lifetime ban.
Baseball started testing with penalties in 2004, established a 10-day suspension for a first testing violation in 2005 and increased the discipline to 50 games in 2006.
While there were two-to-four major league suspensions annually from 2008-11, the number increased to 12 in 2012 and 14 players were penalized following last year’s investigation of the Biogenesis of American anti-aging clinic. Among them were All-Stars Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz, former National League MVP Ryan Braun and three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez, who is suspended for the entire 2014 season.
“Our hope here is that the adjustments that we’ve made do inevitably get that number to zero,” said new union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star himself. “In the event that that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, we’ll reevaluate and move forward from there. But as I sit here, I am hopeful that players make the right decisions that are best for them, for their careers and for the integrity of the game.”
Peralta and Cruz returned from their suspensions in time to participate in the playoffs, which angered some of their colleagues. Clark said the union membership wanted to make sure “a player is not coming back and affecting a change in the postseason as a result of the decision that particular player made earlier in the year.”
In addition to the postseason ban, players who serve PED suspensions will not be eligible for automatic postseason money shares but may be given cash awards at the discretion of their teammates.
A player serving a season-long suspension will lose all his pay. Under the previous rules, Rodriguez gets 21-183rds of his salary this year, or $2,868,852.
“Although we had the strongest program in professional sports before these changes, I am committed to constantly finding ways to improve the program in order to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the game,” baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.
An arbitrator would be allowed to reduce a suspension for a first or second testing violation by up to 50 percent if a player proves by “clear and convincing evidence” that a positive test was not caused by his “significant fault or negligence.” However, penalties may not be cut for muscle-building substances such as testosterone, human growth hormone, Boldenone, Nandrolone and Stanozolol.
In-season random urine tests will increase from 1,400 to 3,200 overall in addition to the minimum two for each player, and offseason tests will rise from 250 to 350.
There will be 400 random blood collections used to detect human growth hormone in addition to the mandatory one for each player during spring training.
Players with PED violations, other than those who penalties are reduced for mitigation, will receive six additional random urine tests and three more blood tests annually for the rest of their careers. Foreign players entering the major leagues and those not subject to the major- or minor-league testing program for at least a year will be required to take urine and blood tests before signing contracts.
“There are certain considerations we need to make in an effort to put guys in a position where the guys who are doing it correctly aren’t being adversely affected any more than necessary,” Clark said.