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WADA chief: Baseball has a long way to go

Any claims that Major League Baseball has "fixed the problem" of performance-enhancing drugs "and we need to move forward," as players' union chief Donald Fehr said Monday, were roundly dismissed yesterday by the both head of the World Anti-Doping Agency and by WADA's Long Island-based expert, Dr. Gary Wadler.

During a symposium at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, WADA president John Fahey cautioned that he did not want to meddle in baseball's business. But, he said, "Ultimately, the public is happy with transparency -- whatever you are, whoever you are."

The recent admission of steroid use by Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, Fahey added, "is surely a reminder to the MLB that something is not right. And in the long term, for the health of this sport, can they ignore it?"

Wadler, chairman of WADA's Prohibitive List and Methods Committee that meets three times a year to evaluate potentially illegal substances, repeated his long-held belief that baseball and the other major U.S. professional sports all need better "transparency, independence and accountability -- three magic words" in their drug-testing programs.

Wadler noted that, while the International Olympic Committee initiated the first list of banned drugs, in the 1960s, and opened the first anti-doping laboratories soon afterward, "it took them a long time to realize that, no matter what they did, the perceptions were that doping was getting through the cracks, that it was the fox guarding the henhouse."

That realization, he reminded, led to the founding of WADA, a body completely independent from the IOC and all sports organizations, in 2000. "Considering where baseball was in 2003, when they were at zero" -- with no testing or penalties -- "to where they are now, they've taken substantial steps," Wadler said. "In my judgment, they have not taken enough."

WADA officials long have argued that American professional sports leagues should accept WADA's "gold standard" of independence and protocols, including vastly stiffer penalties for steroid users -- two years for the first offense, as opposed to baseball's 50 games and far shorter suspensions (four games) in the NFL.

"I understand their reticence over sanctions and the loss of control of sanctions, and what two years would do to the bottom line in those sports," Wad ler said. "But this is not unique to professional sports, in international rugby, international soccer, international tennis, international cycling, where lots of money is involved, yet those entities realize their superstars may be banned for two years."

Fahey noted the "revelations that continue to unfold" in baseball, and said, "It is just that transparency might not be a bad thing in that sport."

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