MLB opposes two-tiered PED bans?

As MLB union officials speak with players at spring training about revising baseball’s drug-testing program, one idea seems to be gaining momentum:

A two-tiered penalty system in which players who intentionally violate the program could receive harsher punishment than players who unintentionally test positive.

Major League Baseball, however, has expressed to the union that it has “no interest” in such a plan, sources say.

Barring a reversal, MLB’s stance effectively would kill any two-tiered proposal, for changes to the drug-testing program can only occur through collective bargaining between the players and owners.

Commissioner Bud Selig said recently that he wants a stronger penalty for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second (the penalties now are 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third).

Baseball views different sets of punishments as impractical, sources say, believing it would be difficult to establish which players used intentionally and which did not.

To some players, the distinction is important, but baseball considers “strict liability” an important part of its program. Under strict liability, a person is responsible for his offense regardless of culpability.

Philadelphia Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis and San Francisco Giants reliever Guillermo Mota, both of whom were suspended last season, are examples of players who might have argued that their positive tests resulted from unintentional use of banned substances.

Galvis, suspended for 50 games last August over Clostebol, said in a statement that “a trace amount of a banned substance — 80 parts in a trillion” was detected in his urine sample. He added, “I cannot understand how even this tiny particle of a banned substance got into my body.”

Mota, suspended 100 games in May for Clenbuterol, told reporters that his positive test — a second offense — resulted from drinking children’s cough medicine.

“What I did was a mistake and I did not read the label,” Mota said.

In theory, a two-tiered penalty system could benefit such players, assuming that they could prove their innocence. Some union officials are willing to assume such a burden of proof, sources say. But the union’s willingness to embrace the concept would mean little if baseball opposed giving lighter penalties to some violators.

For now, the idea is a non-starter.