Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that it had reached an agreement with its players' association to move drug testing to a facility certified by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

The testing under the joint drug treatment and prevention program is a big shift and it will happen immediately.

MLB was using companies that primarily test large corporations, but now the focus will be on a WADA-certified lab in Montreal.

"This agreement is another important step in bringing Major League Baseball more in line with accepted international standards," said Rob Manfred, MLB executive vice president of labor relations. "Through the recent completion of a drug-testing regimen for a potential international baseball tournament and by moving the testing program to a WADA-certified laboratory, we, together with the Players' Association, provide a tangible demonstration of our commitment to a more stringent and effective drug prevention program at the major-league level."

There are only two World Anti-Doping Agency-certified laboratories in North America and MLB will have access to testing at both of them.

"I am pleased to provide our institute's support and expertise to Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Treatment and Prevention Program," said Dr. Christiane Ayotte, head of the Doping Control Laboratory at the INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier Research Center in Quebec.

"We strongly believe the measures taken in this agreement are vital steps in the continued effort to insure the long-term health and safety of the athletes."

The latest announcement is a follow-up to another hurdle that was overcome in trying to start a World Cup in baseball.

Drug testing agreements between MLB, its players' association and the International Baseball Federation (IBF) were reached on April 26.

That accord is consistent with the drug-testing rules required by WADA and the Olympic movement.

The goal for MLB and the MLBPA is to have a World Cup of Baseball as early as March 2005.

"There are tangible benefits to players in the utilization of a WADA-certified laboratory, particularly in the area in which they have been at the forefront, the promotion and development of baseball worldwide," said Gene Orza, MLBPA chief operating officer. "This is an important step on this road."

Additionally, MLB has moved the testing under the minor-league drug treatment and prevention program to a WADA-certified testing facility located in Los Angeles.

"With its testing also moved to a WADA-certified laboratory, we believe the minor-league drug-testing program will continue to help eradicate the use of performance-enhancing substances," Manfred added.

The testing for the minor-league program will take place at the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory.

"The features of this program demonstrate Major League Baseball's commitment to creating a strong anti-doping element in their sport," said Dr. Don Catlin, director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory. "We look forward to working with our new partners in Major League Baseball to make this program a great success."