NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball's investigation into alleged doping could take months to resolve with the league and union still in talks about the crisis.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig vowed that the league would take stern action against players tied to the Biogenesis doping scandal but warned against expectations of a quick outcome, saying the case was still ongoing.
"We have to complete this investigation. I have to see the results and then we move forward," Selig told a meeting with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America on Tuesday.
The players' union also said it wanted action against anyone found cheating but said any possible penalties could be subject to appeal.
"We have to explain to all players what rights those players have," said Players Association director Michael Weiner.
"And we have a right and an obligation to enforce those rights, and we will."
At least 20 MLB players have been implicated in the scandal, including some of the sport's biggest names, such as New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, suspected of procuring performance enhancing drugs from the now-shut Florida anti-aging clinic.
Media reports in the U.S. have suggested suspensions could come as early as this week but Selig said the speculation was wrong.
Selig said any announcement would not be made until the probe was finished, but he vowed he would not hold back even if was at the same time as the playoffs.
"When they're done with the investigation that will be time, regardless of what time of the season it is," the commissioner said. "We have to do what we have to do."
Weiner, confined to a wheelchair as he battles brain cancer, said he expected the MLB investigators would finish their interviews within the next month but any penalties would have to be discussed between the league and union.
"We have been working closely with the commissioner's office, daily with the commissioner's office on this matter," he said.
"When all the interviews are done we will meet with the commissioner's office and we will try and work something out."
Weiner said the proscribed scale of punishment laid out in the collective bargaining agreement, of 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third, would not apply.
"Players in Biogenesis aren't bound by the penalties in the basic agreement," said Weiner. "The penalties in the basic agreement are for what we call analytical positives, or drug tests.
"The players in Biogenesis are what we call non-analytical positives, positives based on something other than tests.
"They can be suspended for five games or 500 games, that's the theory," the union chief said.
Selig said he remained proud of MLB's doping program, which he called the toughest in U.S. sports, but said that enforcement had to be just as stringent.
"If you have a program that's tough, (it is) a program that demands from all of your players a certain level of doing the right thing. Then if there are problems with that, you have to be aggressive about what went on, why it went on."
The union chief said it was a challenging situation, since the union are partners with MLB in the doping program and also committed to protecting the rights of the players.
"I don't consider it a tough spot, I view it as a challenge to explain to players what we have in front of us, what we think is the right thing to do," he said.
"Which players have a defense and which players don't have a defense and to go forward."
Editing by Julian Linden