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MESA, Ariz. - The number of positive tests for steroids in Major League Baseball dropped to between 1 to 2 percent last season, commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday, and he predicted the virtual elimination of the drug from the sport this year.
The new figures, based on nearly 1,200 tests, are down from the 5 to 7 percent positive results in 2003, the first season major-league players were tested.
Selig said the test results "startled me and a lot of other people.
"I am very confident that we will effectively rid our sport of steroids in this coming season," he said at a news conference.
The tests in 2003-04 were done under the 2002 collective bargaining agreement adhering to a program far less stringent than the one adopted by MLB and the players' union this year. The new program implemented this week includes an unannounced test of every player, other random testing and tests in the offseason.
"I'm comfortable in telling you that we've not only dealt with our problem, but we will finish what we started," Selig said.
Selig also said positive results in testing among minor-leaguers dropped from 11 percent in 2001 to 1.7 last season.
The commissioner refuted the notion that owners looked the other way from the steroid problem because they loved the popularity of the home-run binge of the late 1990s. He said he never heard anyone involved in the sport voice that feeling.
"Do I wish that I knew in 1995 or 1996 what I know today about this after all the hours I've spent?" Selig said. "Of course I do. ... We're just learning a lot of things now."
A House committee plans hearings on the use of steroids in baseball, and Selig has been invited to testify, along with several former and current players. Selig would not say whether he would accept the invitation.
Rob Manfred, executive vice president for labor relations in the commissioner's office and baseball's point man in the steroid program, said that last year's testing program was as unpredictable as possible, given its limitations.
"The testing was not as predictable last year as some people seem to have in their heads," he said. "Some testing was done at home, some testing was done on the road. Players were randomly selected for testing."