Smoltz says tough drug policy needed

Posted: Monday, March 01, 2004

John Smoltz is one player who's clearly concerned about steroids in baseball.

The Atlanta Braves closer called for tougher testing Sunday, saying the sport's integrity is at stake.

''The more this becomes a monster, the more it plays into everybody's mind,'' Smoltz said after a spring training workout in Kissimmee, Fla. ''There's a way they should do tests. Do them the way they should be done not a platform that's just a smoke screen.''

Smoltz said he doesn't even understand the testing policy adopted by major league baseball as part of the collective bargaining agreement in 2002.

Last season, baseball conducted random tests for steroids, and between 5 percent and 7 percent came back positive. That triggered a clause in the labor agreement that allowed players to be punished this season if they were found using steroids.

But Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, called the policy a ''complete joke'' and an ''insult'' to the fight against performance-enhancing drugs.

Under baseball's plan, the first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment only. A second positive would bring a fine or suspension, but a player would have to test positive five times to get a one-year suspension.

Four men associated with a San Francisco lab have been indicted on federal charges of providing steroids to athletes. Among them: the personal trainer for San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds.

Smoltz said he's never taken steroids and doesn't know of anyone who has, but he believes all players are being tainted by the transgressions of a few.

''This stuff did not just pop up out of nowhere,'' he said. ''This controversy is not going to end until the studies and tests are done the right way.

''It's not good for the game. It's not good for the future of the game. It's not good for the kids who want to play this game. It sends the wrong message.''

On the field, Smoltz has erased nearly all doubts about whether he'll be ready for opening day.

Coming back from the fourth elbow surgery of his career, he pitched off the mound for the third time Sunday. Though he has yet to throw to hitters, his stuff looks ready for a game.

''It felt like it was about 90 percent,'' Smoltz said. ''The ball was popping.''

Pedro Martinez and Mark Mulder were also happy to be back on the mound.

In Fort Myers, Fla., Martinez was shocked by the sharpness of his first pitches of spring training. He threw 49 pitches in his first session off a mound since last Oct. 16, when the Boston Red Sox lost the seventh game of the AL championship series to the New York Yankees.

He usually throws just fastballs during his first workout off the mound but he mixed in all three of his pitches Sunday: the fastball, curve and changeup.

''For so long without actually touching a mound I thought it was great,'' Martinez said. ''It was nice and loose, smooth.''

In Phoenix, Oakland Athletics left-hander Mulder threw off a mound for the first time in more than a week and said he'll be ready to take his regular turn when spring training games start.

''It won't be a problem,'' Mulder said after throwing 36 pitches in his first action since having back spasms about a week ago.

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