By Amy Shipley and Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 13, 2007
A long-awaited report on steroid and performance-enhancing drug use in Major League Baseball, which is to be released today, will lay blame at all levels of the sport for a widespread drug problem and call for drastic changes in the league's drug-testing program, according to sources briefed on the investigation. At least 60 current and former players, including past winners of the league's Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards, are expected to be implicated in the 300-page document.
George J. Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader who has led the probe since his appointment by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig in March 2006, is expected to call for MLB to outsource its drug-testing program to a state-of-the-art independent agency, immediately create an investigative arm to pursue allegations or evidence of performance-enhancing drug use among players, and add an education component to the program, several sources said.
The report will show that the performance-enhancing drug use is more rampant among pitchers than position players, but Mitchell will try to play down the names mentioned in an attempt to steer attention to the enormity of baseball's drug problem and the need for changes, one of the sources said.
The sources, who had been briefed on the contents of the report but had not seen it, declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information. The sources declined to discuss names listed in the report.
"It will be an analysis, top-to-bottom, of everyone involved," one source said. "They are not going to pull any punches with anybody. They are going to say what they found, from Selig on down, from union officials on down."
Said another source: "They've identified the low-hanging fruit. The odds are that many more are doing things."
Even if upward of 60 names are mentioned in the report, it is possible that few will be new ones. More than 50 players already have been implicated as alleged performance-enhancing drug users in media reports, investigations and through admissions and failed drug tests. Some retired players have claimed that at the height of the problem from the late 1990s through 2003, when testing was instituted, half or more of baseball's 1,200 players were drug users.
Though many MLB officials have hoped the release of Mitchell's report would bring closure to what has been widely termed baseball's "Steroids Era," that seems unlikely given the number and magnitude of the players involved, the possibility of embarrassing specifics contained in some attachments and exhibits, and the recommended overhaul of a drug-testing program that has faced criticism from Congress and which owners and players have wrangled over for years in collective bargaining.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said yesterday he would recommend that Selig be summoned to testify in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform if the report brings new and damning information to light. Selig and a number of players appeared before the panel in 2005.
"What we will find in this report is that a lot more people are involved in the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs than we ever imagined," Cummings, a senior member of the committee, said in a telephone interview. "I think baseball has developed a culture of cheating. . . . This may put Major League Baseball on the critical list. If it is on the critical list, we need critical solutions."
Selig appointed Mitchell soon after the release of a book that detailed the alleged use of steroids and human growth hormone by San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, who was indicted in November on charges of lying to federal investigators over the alleged drug use. Selig said he told Mitchell to "follow the evidence wherever it might lead" but limited the probe to events since September 2002, when the league and players union agreed to ban performance-enhancing drugs. A survey testing program was instituted the following year.
"I don't want anyone to say there was something to hide, and we hid it," Selig said this week. "No one can say it was a whitewash."
Mitchell complained last winter that he wasn't getting the cooperation of MLB players, but his report was bolstered in recent months by interviews with and evidence from former New York Mets batboy and convicted steroid dealer Kirk J. Radomski, who as part of a federal plea deal agreed to provide information on his baseball connections to Mitchell's group. Mitchell also met with the Albany, N.Y., district attorney's office, which is leading an investigation into drugs distributed illegally by Internet pharmacies and which has implicated several players.
Only one current player, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, is known to have met with Mitchell and his legal team from DLA Piper, an international law firm with an office in New York.
Mitchell has said he will not make recommendations on any disciplinary action, leaving that to Selig and the Major League Baseball Players Association to hash out. The matter could be a challenging one, as the current collective bargaining agreement does not specifically address performance-enhancing drug violations that don't involve positive tests or criminal charges.
Selig hinted at the action he would take last week when he handed out 15-day suspensions to Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles and Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals based on interviews with the players and information from the Albany investigators. Neither player has been identified as having failed a drug test. Selig spared four other players because of "insufficient evidence" that those players used performance-enhancing drugs in violation of the rules in place at the time.
Under the current drug policy, players who test positive for the first time are suspended for 50 games.
In recent weeks, baseball has been consumed with a speculative parlor game that parallels its offseason tradition of trade rumors and free agent negotiations -- namely, guessing at which superstars' names might show up in the Mitchell report, thus taking their place alongside Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others as the most significant names linked to the steroid scandal.
The issue has sullied Selig's recent tenure, an otherwise prosperous period for the sport marked by burgeoning economic growth and unprecedented labor peace.
"I think we all have concern about what effect [the report's release] is going to have on our game," Orioles Manager Dave Trembley said last week. "If the information comes out, I'll be glad it comes out now and [not on] the first day of spring training. Let's . . . get this out of the way, and let's start 2008 on a positive note."
Some observers say they are troubled by Mitchell's ties to Selig -- they are longtime friends, and from 1998 to 2000 Mitchell served on Selig's panel on the game's economic health -- and to the Boston Red Sox, who list Mitchell as a director on their front office roster. Although Mitchell has no ownership stake in the franchise, as has been erroneously reported, he drew compensation from the team until beginning his investigation in March 2006.
But Kenneth M. Duberstein, a White House chief of staff during the Reagan administration who served with Mitchell on a committee that investigated bribery allegations involving Olympics officials in 1999, dismissed concerns about Mitchell's connections to baseball.
"He knows how to dot the i's and cross the t's," Duberstein said of the Democrat from Maine, who also is a former federal prosecutor. "He's absolutely methodical. He builds facts one upon the next. Mitchell is so buttoned-down that he seldom makes a mistake."
Staff writer Thomas Boswell contributed to this report.