In a withering report Thursday on what he called a sports steroid “crisis,” former U.S. Senator George Mitchell branded some of baseball’s greatest stars as drug cheats and recommended tough reforms, including more stringent testing for performance-enhancing drugs and setting up an internal investigative unit to police their use in the game.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig says he embraces all of Mitchell’s ideas.
But for Mitchell’s reform program to take effect, Selig will have to win the agreement of the powerful Major League Baseball Players Association, which for years resisted efforts to punish players who use steroids.
Meanwhile, the commissioner will have to decide for himself whether to discipline home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens and 84 other active and retired major-league players who were identified in Mitchell’s report.
Mitchell urged Selig not to discipline players identified in his investigation. But in a televised news conference Thursday hours after the report was released, Selig said he reserved the right to fine or suspend any player whose drug abuse had “threatened the integrity of the sport,” as he put it.
When asked about Bonds, the former Giants star who is awaiting trial in federal court in San Francisco on perjury charges, Selig declined to comment.
Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, told the Associated Press after Mitchell’s report was released Thursday that decisions on disciplining players would be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account “the period of time during which the conduct occurred and what our policy looked like for that point in time.” The review process would continue into the new year, he indicated.
The report, the result of an investigation Selig ordered in response to Chronicle reports about Bonds’ involvement in the BALCO steroids scandal, cited compelling evidence that the game was rife with the abuse of steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs.
Its 409 pages portray steroids as so pervasive in the major leagues that players casually discuss their drug use in clubhouses, while team employees lug duffels packed with syringes and drug vials, and front-office personnel factor suspicions about steroids into decisions about making trades.
Mitchell’s list of drug users, compiled with evidence provided by two steroid dealers who became federal informants, was peppered with names of some of the greatest stars in the past 20 years. It included eight winners of the Most Valuable Player award, among them former Oakland Athletics Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada, as well as Bonds and Cy Young winners Eric Gagne, the former Los Angeles Dodgers relief ace, and Clemens, who also won his own MVP.
In addition to Bonds, 12 Giants were named as drug users in the report, many of them connected to the BALCO steroids lab in Burlingame. The report implicated 12 Oakland players in drug use, dating back to the “Bash Brothers” era of Canseco and fellow slugger Mark McGwire – who also was labeled a steroid user.
“Widespread illegal use of steroids and other anabolic substances” has afflicted baseball for many years, Mitchell said. He called steroid use a “crisis” that exposed players to serious health risks and threatened to corrupt the integrity of baseball itself.
More on this topic Mitchell unveils web of steroid use in baseball on San Francisco Chronicle