Major league players have been sent details of Commissioner Peter Ueberroth's drug testing program, a spokesman for the commissioner said on Saturday, and the union promptly challenged his right to implement it.
Only players who have drug-testing clauses in their contracts would be tested, along with 21 who were named by the commissioner as having been previously involved with drugs. Of that number, 11 accepted random testing as one of the conditions to avoid being suspended.
Ueberroth "doesn't have the authority to impose it," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn. "We've asked the players to do nothing until we have had a chance to talk further with the people on the other side about it."
Rich Levin, Ueberroth's spokesman, said no information would be made public until it is received by the players, their agents, the union and club officials.
Fehr said, however, that the plan appears to be "same program that he's had in the minor leagues."
Minor league players and baseball personnel, other than players, have been included in a drug-testing plan Ueberroth started in 1985.
"I didn't notice . . . that there were any tremendous variances from what he's been saying in the past in that regard," Fehr said.
Fehr told ABC Radio that the commissioner "did suggest to the players that the plan be in effect only for two years, which may or may not be a step forward depending on what happens after two years."
The Player Relations Committee, the owners' labor arm, said that about 500 players have agreed to random testing. The union said it is about 460.
The union estimates that only about 45 of these players have agreed to testing through clauses in their guaranteed contracts.
"Most of the others were intimidated into agreeing to testing clauses," said a union source, while the owners said it was a "totally voluntary act on the players' part."
The players' association filed a grievance over the inclusion of such clauses, and Fehr said on Friday that he learned during the opening hearings into the grievance that not even owners consider these clauses binding in contracts that are nonguaranteed.
"Even though they were signed, the players never had the obligation to take the tests, and if they refused, there were no penalties. This, however, was not the understanding that the players had," Fehr said.
"That still leaves us with about 45 guaranteed contracts," he said, adding that if the clauses in the other contracts cannot be enforced, the union would like to see these removed also.
Another union source said: "You are not going to see many players go through with the testing now that the owners have agreed the clause is not enforceable.
"It says the player can be tested at anytime, but it doesn't say what the test is. It could be a test that has been shown to be unreliable--that would give a false positive. It doesn't even say what the test is for."
Also to be tested under the commissioner's plan are the 21 players named by him Feb. 28 as having been previously involved with drugs.
Ueberroth announced that day that all drug testing in the sport would be done under the direction of his office rather than by individual clubs and would be administered by Dr. Anthony Daly of Los Angeles.
The commissioner said the program "would be totally confidential and will have no penalties for initial positive results."