WASHINGTON – Major League Baseball players who test positive for steroids will face a mandatory 50-game suspension for their first offense under the terms of a new drug policy to be announced Tuesday by the players and the owners.
A second offense will result in a 100-game suspension; a third offense will mean a lifetime ban from the game. A player who is banned for life may apply for a reinstatement hearing before an arbitrator after two years.
The deal also adds testing for amphetamines, with a suspension of 25 games for a second positive drug test and 80 games for a third.
A formal announcement was planned for later Tuesday.
Baseball's current steroid penalties, agreed to in January, are a 10-day suspension for a first offense, 30 days for a second offense, and 60 days for a third. The earliest a player could be banned for life is a fifth offense.
The sport's second new steroids agreement in 10 months came after lengthy negotiations prompted by urging from Congress — including the threat of legislation that would require higher penalties and stricter testing standards.
Representatives of the owners and players were on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va. He's one of a handful of lawmakers who introduced bills that would govern steroid-testing in major professional sports leagues — and it was his panel that held the March 17 hearing with Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.
While Davis didn't immediately address how Tuesday's news might affect the pending legislation, he did issue a statement calling the agreement "the type of self-initiated action we were hoping for all along."
"While the new policy is not what it would be had I authored it, it is a much stronger policy, one with multiple random tests and far tougher penalties for even first-time offenders," he added.
"It is gratifying to see Major League Baseball come such a long way from our hearing of March 17."
At that hearing, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and union head Donald Fehr were scolded for what congressmen called a weak penalty system for drug testing.
The next month, Selig made a 50-100-lifetime proposal. In September, Fehr countered with 20 games, 75 games and, for a third offense, a penalty set by the commissioner.
At a Sept. 28 hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., scolded Fehr in particular for not having reached a deal on a new steroids policy.
"We're at the end here, and I don't want to do it, but we need an agreement soon. It's not complicated. It's not complicated. All sports fans understand it," McCain said at the hearing. "I suggest you act — and act soon."
Last week, McCain and Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., revised their proposed legislation to soften the penalties, which they originally set at two years for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second. The bill now calls for a half-season ban for a first positive test, one season for a second and a lifetime penalty for a third. Their bill would apply to Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, NHL and baseball's minor leagues.
Baseball, though, has been the focal point of congressional interest and pressure.
As recently as 2004, there was no suspension for a first offense under the sport's steroid program. As recently as 2002, players weren't tested for steroids at all, unless there was cause.
Under the new deal, according to the congressional aides, now amphetamines will be tested for. A first positive test will lead to mandatory additional testing, a second offense will draw a 25-game suspension, and a third offense gets 80 games.
A player will be tested during spring training physicals and at least once in the regular season, plus the possibility of other, random tests. The old agreement called for a minimum of one test from the start of spring training through the end of the regular season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.