Mitchell Report proposes solutions
12/13/2007 11:02 PM ET
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Former Sen. George Mitchell said on Thursday that performance-enhancing drug use has been pervasive in the sport for more than a decade as he released his findings in the shape of a 311-page report, which was fashioned during the past 20 months of investigations.
"Everyone involved in baseball shares responsibility," Mitchell said during a news conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. "Commissioners, club officials, the Players Association and players. I can't be any clearer than that."
In all, 89 players were named in the report, including free agent Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros, Eric Gagne of the Milwaukee Brewers and Paul Lo Duca of the Washington Nationals, as well as a list of players like Barry Bonds who have already been publicly associated with steroid use.
The report itself is posted at MLB.com and is available to read in its entirety.
"The illegal use of performance-enhancing substances poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game," the Mitchell Report said. "Widespread use by players of such substances unfairly disadvantages the honest athletes who refuse to use them and raises questions about the validity of baseball records.
"Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades -- commissioners, club officials, the players' association and players -- shares to some extent the responsibility for the Steroids Era," Mitchell said. "There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on."
Commissioner Bud Selig, reacting to Mitchell's report, said during his own news conference shortly thereafter that he intended to deal with the background and recommendations made in the report in a transparent manner.
"The fact of the matter is that it happened," Selig said. "This document should act as a road map not only for us, but for the people that come after us. What we all need to do is move forward now. I'm satisfied that he achieved what I asked him to set out to do."
Don Fehr, the long-time executive director of the Players Association, said he hadn't been able to read the report and couldn't fully comment on it.
"We did request a meaningful opportunity to review his lengthy report prior to today, but that request was denied by both Sen. Mitchell and the Commissioner's office," said Fehr, whose union was cited in the report as having been "uncooperative." "We saw this report only an hour before it was made public. For now, however, we can say the following:
"Many players are named, their reputations affected forever, even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been."
Clemens was the player with the most notoriety to be included in the Mitchell Report. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner and apparent lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, was singled out by name 82 times in nearly nine pages of the report. Most of the information regarding Clemens came from former Yankees Major League strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee.
Through his attorney, Rusty Hardin, Clemens denied he used performance-enhancing drugs and expressed outrage that his name was included in the report.
"I have great respect for Senator Mitchell. I think an overall look at this problem in baseball was an excellent idea," Hardin said in a statement. "But I respectfully suggest it is very unfair to include Roger's name in this report. He is left with no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations. He has not been charged with anything, he will not be charged with anything and yet he is being tried in the court of public opinion with no recourse. That is totally wrong."
The reaction to Mitchell's Report from Capitol Hill was immediate. All three -- Mitchell, Selig and Fehr -- have been asked to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Tuesday. Congressional pressure, exercised by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, was one of the reasons why Selig commissioned Mitchell and his committee to generate the report in March, 2006.
"This is a sad day for Major League Baseball but a good day for integrity in sports," the Committee chairman Henry Waxman and ranking minority member Tom Davis said in a joint statement. "It's an important step towards the goal of eliminating the use of performance enhancing substances.
"The Mitchell report is sobering. It shows the use of steroids and human growth hormone has been and is a significant problem in Major League Baseball. And it shows that everyone involved in Major League Baseball bears some responsibility for this scandal."
Aside from delving deeply into the past, Mitchell made 19 recommendations on how to move forward and strengthen the current Major League drug policy, which was collectively bargained in 2002 and has been re-opened twice to stiffen the penalties. Mitchell is seeking, among other things, an independent overseer, greater education, increased off-season testing and state-of-the art testing procedures.
Selig said he intends to implement as many of Mitchell's recommendations as possible that don't need to be collectively bargained with the union. One of them, 24-hour notice of a pending drug test, has already been eliminated, he said.
Mitchell also asked Selig to show restraint and not penalize the current players whose names are mentioned in the report along with the pertinent evidence that points toward their use of performance-enhancing drugs, "except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game."
Selig said he would digest Mitchell's remarks, but would handle discipline on a "case-by-case" basis.
"I will take action where it is appropriate," said Selig, who already had meted out 15-day suspensions at the start of next season to Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen for their part in their Albany, N.Y., investigation.
The union has already grieved Guillen's suspension with a hearing most probably early next year.
Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox, and was chairman of The Walt Disney Co., the parent of ESPN, at the time Selig established the committee on March 30, 2006, charging it with leaving "no stone unturned" in its quest to determine what happened in baseball's so-called steroid era.
When questioned about those ties, Mitchell said that a reading of the full report will prove it's not biased.
"Judge me by my work," he said. "Take a look at how the investigation was conducted. Read the report. You will not find any evidence of bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox or anyone else because there is none."
Mitchell said that about two dozen people from his law firm, including himself, were involved part-time in producing and investigating the report. Though both Selig and Mitchell declined to put a price tag on it, CNN reported that the cost may be as high as $20 million.
"Let's put it this way, the cost of not doing it would've been a lot higher," Selig said.
Several of the players mentioned in the Mitchell Report have been connected to performance-enhancing drug use in the past. In recent years, Bonds, Kevin Brown, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and the late Ken Caminiti, among others, have all been linked to reports or have admitted their own steroid use.
A considerable number of names also appeared in the report in contextual stories detailing the actions of other players. Multiple players were invited to meet with Mitchell's probe as he gathered facts but declined. Mitchell said that each player mentioned in the report was offered a fair opportunity to refute the allegations.
Mitchell, whose committee had no power to compel testimony or evidence, said in the report that more than 700 witnesses were interviewed, including 550 current or former club official, managers, coaches, team physicians, athletic trainers and resident security agents. Sixteen more were also called from the Commissioner's office, including Selig, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, and Rob Manfred, its vice president of labor relations and human resources.
"The Players Association was largely uncooperative," Mitchell wrote, noting that Fehr was interviewed once, while Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, declined.
Only two current players testified -- Giambi, under threat of suspension from Selig, and Frank Thomas, who has been outspoken on the issue, but has never been linked with performance-enhancing drug use. Mitchell wrote that five such players were asked to appear, but Thomas was the only one to accept.
"His comments were informative and helpful," Mitchell wrote about Thomas.
In addition, 500 former players were asked to appear, but only 68 accepted the invitation. Selig, for his part, said he was "disappointed" in the lack cooperation by current union members, although Mitchell called it "understandable."
Much of Mitchell's information came via ongoing federal and state investigations into the sale of performance enhancing drugs and any evidence given to his committee very well may have been subpoenaed in those still ongoing investigations, placing the players in legal jeopardy.
One of the keys to Mitchell's investigation was the willingness earlier this year of Kirk Radomski, a bat boy, equipment manager and clubhouse attendant for the Mets from 1985-95, to provide his committee with players' names as part of his plea bargain with the federal government in the case against the Bay Area Co-Operative Laboratory. In addition, Radomski provided mailing receipts of shipments as well as checks and money orders from players, all included in the report.
Radomski pleaded guilty to providing players with performance-enhancing drugs during that period, and an entire section of the Mitchell Report largely circled around Radomski's testimony.
McNamee, who worked closely with Clemens, Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, provided extensive context as well.
McNamee told Mitchell that he provided Clemens with steroids and HGH during the late 1990s, but said he had no knowledge of Clemens' actions after 2001; McNamee also said that he injected Pettitte on two to four occasions with HGH.
A national investigation by an Albany, N.Y., district attorney unearthed the names of nine former or current players involved with procuring performance-enhancing drugs, either through southern U.S. clinics or pharmacies doing business via the Internet.
Seven of them -- Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals, Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels, Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Rangers, Gibbons of the Orioles, Paul Byrd of the Indians, Troy Glaus of the Blue Jays, Scott Schoeneweis of the Mets and Guillen, who just signed as a free agent with the Royals -- were interviewed by the Commissioner's Office.
Although, Gibbons and Guillen have been penalized, due to insufficient evidence, no disciplinary action was taken against Ankiel, Matthews Jr., Glaus and Schoeneweis. Results of the Byrd and Hairston reviews have not yet been made public.
The report was delivered with the backdrop of Bonds having just pleaded not guilty last Friday in a San Francisco federal court on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice.
Bonds' plea related to his own use of performance-enhancing drugs in testimony he gave four years ago before a grand jury investigating BALCO for money laundering and illegally selling performance-enhancing drugs without prescriptions.
Bonds is referred to in the report 103 times, but Mitchell breaks no new ground in that area. Bonds declined to be interviewed or respond to written questions about his alleged drug use, Mitchell wrote.
Selig appointed Mitchell after he read the book "Game of Shadows," which documented the BALCO investigation, and in which Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield were among a number of players subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury under grants of immunity.
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