- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 18, 2004

NEW YORK — Major league baseball has banned THG, the recently unmasked steroid at the center of the case against the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative.

The health policy advisory committee of management and the players’ association unanimously determined last Thursday that THG builds muscle mass and should be added to baseball’s list of banned substances.

“Testing for THG is an important step toward reaching our goal of zero tolerance,” MLB commissioner Bud Selig said. “I am committed to that goal and advocate a more stringent and effective drug-testing program in the major leagues, similar to our program in the minor leagues.”

The Food and Drug Administration ruled Oct.28 THG, which stands for tetrahydrogestrinone, is an illegal drug that lacks federal permission for sale in the United States.

Because baseball and other sports did not know about THG before last October, drug testing was unable to detect it.

“I don’t care,” Minnesota Twins outfielder Jacque Jones said. “I don’t take any of that stuff so it doesn’t matter to me what they ban.”

Barry Bonds’ personal trainer, Greg Anderson, was among four men indicted last month on charges of illegally supplying performance-enhancing drugs from BALCO. All four pleaded innocent.

Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield were among the athletes called to testify before a grand jury. All have denied using illegal steroids.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. Some are approved by FDA for prescription-only sale to treat certain diseases.

Selig told a congressional committee last week he hopes to have a tougher testing plan than the one called for in baseball’s labor contract.

The plan has drawn some criticism. Players with major league contracts are tested only twice in a one-week period each year, and penalties — no suspension until the second offense — are far weaker than those called for in Olympic sports.

Players with minor league contracts, who are not covered by the labor contract, are tested more often, and positive tests are dealt with more harshly.

The day before the hearing, Selig sent a letter to the union asking to discuss the drug agreement. The players’ association has not yet responded.

“There are modifications you think about as circumstances change and as the law changes,” union head Donald Fehr said after meeting with the New York Yankees in Tampa, Fla. “We’ll have to see how it goes. Obviously, nobody is interested in condoning any illegal substance.

“You have an agreement and you make agreements because you expect to hold to those agreements. You start opening up agreements, I suppose you can open them on anything. Having said that, you never bar having discussions or considering things or looking at it in a different light if circumstances change.”

Selig is powerless to act unilaterally because drug testing is covered by collective bargaining. While the major league baseball constitution gives Selig broad power to act in the “best interests of baseball,” in the labor contract he agreed the commissioner will take no action to “negate rights of players.”

Boston pitcher Curt Schilling said the current system “is not working” and is angry that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed results from last year’s survey tests for several players.

“We were told last spring that the tests that we were taking were completely anonymous,” Schilling said. “We were told that no one would be able to be identified through this testing.”

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