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IBAF makes Games pitch

by Jim Allen (Feb 20, 2009)

The head of the International Baseball Federation said professional baseball's steroid issue is being dealt with and his sport is ready to return to the Olympic program in 2016 with the best players available.

In the week following an admission of steroid use by Alex Rodriguez, Major League Baseball's biggest star, IBAF president Dr. Harvey Schiller said Thursday his federation was at the forefront, handing out two-year suspensions from IBAF events. The bans players face from leagues are much less severe, although Schiller believes that will change.

"The key to this is that they're going to non-tolerance," he said. "The shame that people feel when they are exposed will help the overall effort.

"I think that based on recent events, the upcoming negotiations between the players association and Major League [Baseball] will focus on this issue of suspension.

"On a personal basis, if any player in the [World Baseball] Classic is stupid enough to take drugs and be tested positive during this tournament, he should never be allowed on a baseball field again anywhere."

The IBAF joined six other sports federations in a bid for admission to the program for 2016. One or two sports may be added in October at the IOC Congress in Copenhagen, but the current target is June, when an executive committee will consider baseball's bid along with softball, rugby sevens, golf, roller sports, karate and squash.

The issue is crucial for the IBAF since most national federations only receive government aid if their sport is in the Olympics. At least this time around, he expects more support from MLB.

In the past, MLB teams prohibited players on active rosters from joining Olympic teams. However, Schiller said 2016 should see MLB stars in either Tokyo, Chicago, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro.

"Major League Baseball commissioner [Bud] Selig has issued a statement saying that 2016 will represent the best players in any Olympic tournament," Schiller said.

"I think it will be very important to have a definitive statement before the executive committee meets this June [in Lausanne, Switzerland]."

Until then, IOC vice president Chiharu Igaya will be bending committee members' ears on the subject of baseball.

"In March, I'll be going overseas four times for various meetings and I'll use every opportunity to speak to each individual member and explain what kind of a sport baseball is and what its appeal is," said Igaya, a silver medal-winning alpine skier.

Igaya, who said he was "instrumental" in getting baseball into the Olympics 20 years ago, is considering possible arguments to put baseball ahead of its rivals.

"It is very hard, because all sports have their advantages and disadvantages," he said. "I'll have to explain it in terms of how baseball will help spread the Olympic movement."

Asked if the revenue generated by the sport in Asia and America might be a factor, Igaya said the Olympics were about more than money, but "sometimes revenue helps in getting the Olympic message across."

Schiller said: "I hope the Japanese people will give a cheer in June that can be heard all the way to Lausanne."


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