• The Associated Press


Baseball’s chief labor negotiator expects an agreement soon with the players’ association on a World Cup tournament, putting aside for now the larger issue of drug tests during the regular season.

Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, said the sides have concentrated on a drug-testing agreement for a World Cup because a decision must be made soon whether to launch the tournament before the 2005 season.

“The focus is on the World Cup because of the timing. But we are equally concerned about the larger issue,” he said before Tampa Bay beat the New York Yankees 8-3 in Tuesday night’s season opener. “We need an agreement in order to have the World Cup tournament. We have an independent set of concerns with respect to certain aspects of the major league policy.”

While players generally oppose Olympic drug-testing guidelines, which call for more frequent tests and harsher penalties than those in baseball, union chief operating officer Gene Orza said Sunday that his side is willing to agree to IOC-style rules for a World Cup.

That could lead to the situation where a player who tests positive for a banned steroid would receive a two-year suspension from international play but be sent to counseling by baseball while continuing to play, the penalty designated for a first offense in the sport’s labor contract.

“There is a discontinuity between the sanctions that are applied in the international context and the ones that are applied with respect to people’s livelihoods,” Manfred said, adding the different penalties would not be a problem.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig would like more frequent testing and harsher penalties than the ones management and the union agreed to in 2002. He also wants more substances to be banned.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to designate androstenedione and more than two dozen other steroid-like supplements currently available without prescription as controlled substances. Andro is the substance Mark McGwire used when he hit 70 homers in 1998.

If that bill is enacted, those drugs automatically would be added to baseball’s banned list.

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