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Union Chief Has Idea for Players Calling for Stiffer Drug Penalties

Jupiter, Fla. — During the Major League Baseball Players Association’s annual visit to Cardinals camp, union chief Michael Weiner met personally with Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday about his statements urging stiffer penalties for performance-enhancing drug users and presented Holliday with at least one idea on how the union could make that happen.

Weiner later called it “differential penalties.”

“We had a very good discussion on what the different possibilities are,” Weiner said after leaving the Cardinals’ clubhouse.

“There are guys who want to see it increased. There are a lot of guys who like the idea of differential penalties. That’s where an intentional violator gets the higher penalty but a careless violator — someone who wasn’t trying to cheat the system but was not sufficiently careful — would still receive a penalty, but receive a lesser penalty.”

Weiner said there has been a chorus of players asking for increased penalties for positive drug tests. Some believe the 50-game suspension already in place for a first-time offense is sufficient, he said. He repeated that the union and ownership are in discussions about increasing penalties.

In January, news broke in Miami that linked several players to a clinic being investigated for the distribution of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. One of those players, Detroit pitcher Cesar Carillo, was suspended 100 games recently for unspecified violations of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program. At the time of the initial report, Holliday said on MLB Network Radio that he would favor a two-strikes-and-you’re-out policy.

He shared a similar opinion with Weiner during his visit.

“He knows that all of the players want a clean game and want to figure out ways to deter guys from doing that stuff,” Holliday said. “We know what they’re looking at and some of the things that they’re looking to take to the owners.

“Guys want a clean game. They want an equal playing field. If 50 games isn’t enough to keep guys from continuing to push the envelope, then we have to look at the potential to make it more.

“There are plenty of people, not just me, who are concerned that we should do whatever is possible to keep those drugs out of sport.”

This sentiment was shared by others in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. Union reps Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso agreed that the addition of blood-testing to the joint drug policy made this winter was well-received in the Cardinals’ clubhouse. Baseball announced in January that the union and owners had agreed to expand testing to include random, in-season blood testing for human growth hormone and elevated testosterone through banned substances.

The differential-penalties approach Weiner described would consider a player’s intent, drawing a line between negligence and willful cheating and opening an avenue for increased penalties.

“Lawyers could figure out how to put the burden of proof perhaps on the union to show a player didn’t intentionally cheat,” Weiner said.

“If he can meet that burden, he gets 50 (games). The owners (baseball) would have to show the player did intentionally cheat and if they meet that burden he gets the higher penalty. I think there are ways to do it.”

Stiffer drug penalties could be discussed in time to take effect for 2014, Weiner said.

“The view of the vast majority of the players is clear — they want a clean game,” Weiner said. “They are sick of this story. They have no patience for anybody who intentionally tries to cheat the system.”