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Players willing to seek tougher steroids policy

Baseball players yesterday gave their lawyers the go-ahead to reach an agreement with team owners on tougher testing for steroids.

After negotiations with management were outlined to the executive board of the Players Association in a meeting in Phoenix, union head Donald Fehr said the board "authorized us to attempt to conclude an agreement consistent with those discussions."

Commissioner Bud Selig repeatedly has called for more frequent testing and harsher penalties for steroid use, stepping up the intensity following reports of grand jury testimony in a steroid investigation that includes Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield.

Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, said Monday that discussions toward a new agreement had advanced but the sides were still apart. Management expects talks to resume next week.

"We're very pleased they're coming to the table, and we hope we can achieve a program that works," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

About 40 players were present at the meeting, union spokesman Greg Bouris said. Baseball, meanwhile, has put on hold its plans to market Bonds's pursuit of the home run record. The commissioner's office and a corporate sponsor it was courting for the campaign canceled a meeting on the project.

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