Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig on the Battle Against Steroids: 'We've Come a Long Way'

5:17 PM PST 03/28/2014 by Debbie Emery
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan; AP Photo/John Amis
Bud Selig and John Skipper

"We have the toughest testing program in this country today," he told reporters during a joint conference call with ESPN president John Skipper on Friday.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and ESPN president John Skipper joined forces to speak to the media in a conference call on Friday before the first pitch is thrown out in the 2014 season this weekend.

They came together to mark the first year of the new multiyear rights agreement between Major League Baseball and ESPN that begins Sunday with the opening game in San Diego between the Los Angeles Dodgers and hometown Padres.

With the black mark of steroids inevitably in the headlines last year -- which saw the suspension of New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and his subsequent lawsuit against Selig and the MLB -- the commissioner faced the issue head-on.

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"Everything evolves and this has been an evolution," he told reporters. "When you think back to where this sport was 20 years ago, 15 years ago [compared to] where we are today with the toughest drug testing policy in American sports."

Selig promised there will be big news regarding PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) in the near future. 

"We will have an announcement coming up very shortly that is even better. I commend our people and I commend the players, you know how hard I have fought for this in 2005, 6, 7, 8. It was a kind of a lonely battle for awhile," said Selig, who has testified in Congress about the issue after being criticized in the past for not taking an active-enough role for stemming the spread of steroids in baseball. 

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"I am really pleased -- the players' response has been really terrific. We have come to a point that no one could have dreamed about. I am not telling you things are perfect, but they have come a long way," he said. "We have the toughest testing program in this country today, and I do give all parties credit for that."

Also Friday, MLB announced that players suspended during the season for a PED violation will not be eligible for that year's postseason under changes to the sport's drug agreement. The penalties will increase from 50 games to 80 for a first testing violation and from 100 games to 162 for a second, while a third penalty remains a lifetime ban, according to ESPN

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Another hot topic during Selig and Skipper's call was the increased use of instant replay. 

Saying it was the change for 2014 that he is most excited about, Selig revealed: "I, at one time, was not in favor of it, but I watched in spring training. It think it will have an affect on our fans not only on television but in the ballparks," he predicted, adding: "Television and baseball is an evolution. I am excited, and I think it will work very well."

As for Skipper, he thinks it will be a positive move for ESPN: "I am happy for the challenge, it is a legitimate concern, but we have managed it in other sports," said Skipper. "Instant replays often highlight how well we document the game. I think this will highlight the broadcast."

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While many Dodger fans in Los Angeles who don't have Time Warner Cable are concerned about missing games following the launch of the new regional television network, SportsNet LA, they will at least be able to watch their team on ESPN on Sunday night against the Padres. 

"It is a marquee team with a great young player in Yasiel Puig, so it is a great matchup. We also have a very good shot to have good weather in San Diego on opening night, so it is a good way to start the season for us," said Skipper. "I have faith in the parties that they will work all their problems out."

The weather optimism was shared by Selig -- who hates the rain. "I have already started worrying about weather this season," he joked. 

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2014 will be the final season for one baseball legend -- Derek Jeter -- before retirement as another hero of the ballpark, Curt Schilling, takes a break from Sunday Night Baseball for cancer treatment.

"He is asking that we keep the details private, but Curt will let us know when he is ready to come back and we will put him on the air about 15 minutes after that," said Skipper in his "shout out" to Schilling.

"No player has represented his sport better than Derek Jeter," praised Selig. "You couldn't have done any better as a human being over the last 20 years than what Derek has done."

 

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