MLB, union agree to stiff new drug penalties

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PHILADELPHIA — Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced changes Friday to the Joint Drug Agreement that simultaneously stiffened penalties for the use of banned substances and allowed for softer penalties in the case of inadvertent use.

The most significant change increased the penalties for a positive test: 80 games for a first-time offender, a full 162 games the second time and a ban from baseball after a third positive test. Previously, a first offense merited a 50-game suspension and a second offense 100 games.

In addition, the new agreement increases the number of tests and bars suspended players from receiving pay for the days without a scheduled game.

The changes come slightly more than a year after a media report in the Miami New Times implicated several players’ involvement with the Biogenesis clinic, a now-closed anti-aging center that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to major leaguers. That report and the investigation into the clinic eventually led to 50-game suspensions for about a dozen professional players, a 65-game ban for Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and a 211-game suspension for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez challenged the suspension in arbitration, where it was reduced to the 2014 season and playoffs.

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