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Mitchell report: Illegal drug use "widespread"

By Ari Burack

December 13, 2007

Citing "widespread illegal use" of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell today released the results of his 20-month investigation in a report that named several high-profile players, including pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite and former Oakland Athletics shortstop Miguel Tejada.

Though he did identify more than 80 former and current players "who were caught up in the drive to gain a competitive advantage," Mitchell stressed that each of the league's 30 teams have had players who at some point were swept up in baseball's "steroids era."

"For more than a decade there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball, in violation of federal law and baseball policy," Mitchell wrote in the 409-page report.

Mitchell described the league's initial response to the problem as "slow to develop" and "initially ineffective," adding that since the league adopted mandatory drug testing in 2002, detectable steroid use has declined, though human growth hormone use has risen, he said.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig named Mitchell as an independent investigator in March 2006, prompted by the ongoing investigation of former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds and other players' involvement with the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Co Operative, or BALCO.

Bonds, baseball's all-time home run leader, was indicted Nov. 15 on four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never knowingly received steroids or human growth hormone from his trainer, Greg Anderson.

Bonds is not criminally charged with taking performance-enhancing drugs but rather with failing to tell the truth during the federal steroids probe.

Bonds pleaded not guilty to the charges Dec. 7. Mitchell's report said Clemens, a seven time Cy Young Award winner who pitched for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, was given steroids by a strength and conditioning coach for the Blue Jays, who later gave him steroids and human growth hormone when both were members of the Yankees.

Pettite, a former All Star who played for the Yankees and the Astros, was given human growth hormone by the same coach, who was his personal trainer in 2002 while Pettite pitched for the Yankees, the report said.

According to Mitchell, former A's outfielder Adam Piatt in 2003 provided Tejada with steroids and human growth hormone, though whether Tejada actually used the substances is unknown.

Tejada, who played shortstop for the A's from 1997 to 2003 and was named the American League's Most Valuable Player in 2002, was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Clemens, Pettite and Tejada were offered the chance to respond to the allegations, but they declined to meet with him, Mitchell said.

"Baseball needs to do more to effectively address this problem," Mitchell concluded in the report.

He called for the league to more closely investigate allegations of performance enhancing drug use outside of its testing program and to tighten its procedures for keeping the drugs out of clubhouses.

Additionally, Mitchell asked for more effective education programs for players about the health risks of performance enhancing drugs.

Finally, Mitchell asked team owners and the Players Association to update the league's drug policy into a "state-of-the-art program" at the groups' next collective bargaining meeting on the issue.

A local U.S. congressman today issued a response to the report. "Senator Mitchell's report indicates a pervasive and profoundly disappointing culture of illegal drug use in Major League Baseball," said U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo/San Francisco.

"There appears to be easy access to performance-enhancing drugs in this league, and their wide acceptance creates an abhorrent stain on America's pastime," Lantos said.

After the U.S. Congress' 2005 hearings on steroids in baseball, "another round of hearings may be called for if Commissioner Selig fails to act quickly and decisively," Lantos added.


Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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