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MLB fights drug-testing

WASHINGTON – The head of the baseball players’#39; union told Congress yesterday that a new drug-testing agreement could be reached next month.

Commissioners and union leaders from the NFL, NBA and NHL also testified at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing about legislation that would standardize steroid testing in U.S. professional sports. But the focus was squarely on Major League Baseball.

“I particularly single out baseball. And in baseball, I particularly single out the players,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., “because they have negotiated reluctantly, if at all.”

Lawmakers looking at steroids in sports have focused on baseball since March 17, when Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, commissioner Bud Selig and Fehr testified before the House Government Reform Committee. Palmeiro emphatically told Congress he never used steroids; he was suspended Aug. 1 after failing a drug test.

“We’#39;re at the end of the line,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said yesterday. “How many more Rafael Palmeiros is there going to be?”

Five weeks after that March hearing, Selig proposed going from a 10-day ban to 50 games for a first violation, from 30 days to 100 games for a second, and from 60 days to a lifetime ban for a third.

This week, Fehr outlined an approach that would increase the first penalty to 20 games and wouldn’#39;t mandate a lifetime ban. He stressed yesterday the need for case-by-case examination of players who fail drug tests.

“Don’#39;t you get it?” McCain asked Fehr. “Don’#39;t you get it that this is an issue that’#39;s greater than the issue of collective bargaining? Don’#39;t you understand that this is an issue of such transcendent importance that you should have acted months ago?”

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