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MLB nearing new PED deal with tougher penalties for 2014 season

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig speaks at a reception for baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Washington. Aaron is turning 80 and is being celebrated with a series of events in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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Baseball commissioner Bud Selig can toast his PED legacy. (AP)

Tougher penalties for users of performance-enhancing drugs — with provisions for shorter suspensions for those found to have done PEDs unintentionally. Those are the key points of a new PED agreement that Major League Baseball and the players union hope to have in place by Sunday night, the Associated Press reports.

Suspension lengths have not been finalized, but here's what they're working on: First offenders would be suspended for 80 games reportedly. Rules in place since the 2006 season have allowed for 50. Second offenders would be done for an entire season; the old penalty was 100 games. The lifetime ban stays in place for the third offense.

A new wrinkle would be a 25-game suspension for "inadvertent use," the AP writes. What constitutes that? In 2012, Freddy Galvis and Guillermo Mota maintained that they tested positive after using products — such as foot cream and cough syrup — that were not performance-enhancers. What's to prevent the next wave of players with positive tests from making claims that might be false, especially with the difference in punishment being so stark? And how could authorities tell the difference? It's probably easier with more obvious cases, such as the one for the Rays' Alex Colome, who took a steroid frequently used for horses. It's not like he could claim his hooves were giving him trouble.

And here's another facet: Let's say a player tests positive for something he really did get from taking cough syrup. It defies science that a player could have his "performance enhanced" in the first place by whatever the substance is. It gets back to this: Until they come closer to quantifying how these drugs supposedly help build an "enhanced" ballplayer, all testing does is quiet the hysteria.

On that note, the forfeiting of entire contracts for PED users is not on the table during the negotiations, nor should it ever be expected, union leader Tony Clark has said. So, for anyone who says, "The Yankees should be allowed to release Alex Rodriguez without having to pay him after a first or second offense," you're out of luck.

But there's this: A revised agreement also would close the loophole that allowed A-Rod to keep a portion of his $25 million salary — $2,868,852 — after his suspension for the 2014 season was mostly upheld by arbitrator Fredric Horowicz. So that's something.

Changing these penalties is unusual to do while a basic agreement is in place, before the next one is collectively bargained, but that's what former union chief Michael Weiner said would happen after many in the union voiced their displeasure with how current punishments were (or were not) working.

It remains to be seen what future unintended consequences will result from these proposals.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post said it was reported that first offenders would be suspended for 100 games.]

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David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.com and follow him on Twitter!

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