By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 14, 2007
NEW YORK, Dec. 13 -- A 21-month investigation into use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball concluded Thursday a culture of secrecy and permissiveness gave rise to a "steroids era" in the game that included some of its biggest names, most prominent among them superstar pitcher Roger Clemens.
The long-awaited report by George J. Mitchell gave a detailed account provided by a onetime team trainer who told the panel that he injected Clemens -- a seven-time Cy Young Award winner regarded as the greatest pitcher of the last half-century -- with steroids and human growth hormone while he was with the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees. Clemens was one of 91 players named in the report, a list that included 33 all-stars, 10 most valuable players, and two Cy Young winners.
The report criticized team officials across the league who did little to police their own clubhouses and high-ranking officials in management and the players' union which, the report said, had little motivation to interfere with the surging popularity and economic growth experienced by the game over the last decade. It spread blame for the rise of the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in baseball among the players, team officials, the union and Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig.
"Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades -- commissioners, club officials, the players association, and players -- shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era," the report said. "There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread."
Among the most prominent current and former players fingered in the report were Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.
"Players who used [performance-enhancing] substances were wrong," the report said. "They violated federal law and baseball policy, and they distorted the fairness of competition by trying to gain an unfair advantage."
Clemens's attorney said the pitcher denied the allegations in the report. "He just emphatically denies everything in there," said the attorney, Rusty Hardin.
The panel headed by Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader and federal prosecutor, was commissioned by Major League Baseball in March 2006 to address the steroid issue. The report runs 311 pages, plus attachments, and cost, according to two baseball officials, more than $20 million.
Much of the information in the report was old, and merely rehashed previous media reports linking various players to ongoing law enforcement investigations. But the cooperation of two clubhouse insiders -- former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk J. Radomski and former Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee, who testified to injecting Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone -- brought about the report's most stunning revelations.
Mitchell also criticized baseball's leadership, chiefly Selig and union counterpart Donald Fehr, for "a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on." As a result, the report says, "an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread."
After the report was released, Selig repeated previous assertions that baseball leaders did all they could do to fight the steroid problem, but said he accepted Mitchell's findings, including those that focused blame on himself.
"If we were naive and missed some signals that [we] should have caught, I'll accept that responsibility," Selig said in an interview with a small group of reporters late Thursday afternoon.
However, Selig also shifted the blame partially to baseball's powerful union, with which the league must negotiate most aspects of the drug testing policy. "Do I wish we would've done more, quicker? Yes, and we would have. The things we were allowed to [implement] unilaterally, we did," Selig said.
Fehr, who heads the players' union, told reporters he had not yet had a chance to read the report. However, he took issue with the perception that the association dissuaded its members from cooperating with the investigation, which lacked the subpoena power to compel players' testimony.
"I did not encourage them tacitly or explicitly not to cooperate," Fehr said. "I gave them advice as to what the legal lay of the land was and urged them to seek their own counsel."
The House Oversight and Government Reform committee, which held a hearing into the steroid problem in baseball in March 2005, scheduled another hearing for Tuesday and asked Selig and Fehr to testify. Selig, however, said he has a scheduling conflict and that the date is being reconsidered.
"The Mitchell Report is sobering," committee chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and ranking minority member Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) wrote in a joint statement. "It shows that everyone in Major League Baseball bears some responsibility for this scandal."
Mitchell's report made several significant recommendations that baseball should take to keep pace with the evolving development and marketing of illicit performance-enhancing drugs, including adopting a program that is transparent and overseen by an independent entity, and which includes year-round, unannounced testing.
Selig said he would adopt all the recommendations that he can implement unilaterally, such as the appointment of an investigative arm to look into possible drug usage that is not signaled by a positive test, and vowed he will "be reaching out to Don Fehr . . . to urge him to join me in accepting" those recommendations requiring union approval.
Mitchell also recommended that Selig forgo disciplining those players named in the report -- except for the most "serious" cases -- arguing, "a principal goal of this investigation is to bring to a close this troubling chapter in baseball's history [and] all efforts should now be directed to the future."
Selig, however, said he would reject this recommendation and vowed to examine each named player on a case-by-case basis to see whether there is sufficient evidence to pursue suspensions. Those suspensions likely would mirror baseball's policy at the time of the players' alleged usage.
"You have to find out what the conduct was, and when that conduct occurred," said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations.
Mitchell's investigation was hampered by the players' lack of cooperation; only two current players, Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi and Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas, agreed to be interviewed by Mitchell and his investigators, and Giambi consented only under pressure from Selig following Giambi's tacit admission of steroid use in a USA Today story.
But the probe received a huge boost from Radomski. Radomski pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges that he used his clubhouse access to distribute steroids to players for nearly a decade, and as part of a plea deal agreed to assist Mitchell's investigation. Radomski sat for four separate interviews with Mitchell and his team of investigators and provided Mitchell with corroborating evidence that included copies of canceled checks and telephone records.
One person who purchased drugs from Radomski was McNamee, who, according to Mitchell, became a "sub-distributor" who provided drugs for Clemens, Pettitte and former Yankee Chuck Knoblauch. To avoid being charged, McNamee agreed to cooperate with both the Radomski investigation and Mitchell's investigation. McNamee said he personally injected Clemens with performance-enhancing drugs beginning in 1998 through the 2001 season.
However, unlike with Radomski's direct clients, no paper trail exists linking Clemens to the purchase of drugs from McNamee, who, according to Mitchell, continued to draw income from Clemens as a personal trainer into 2007.
Mitchell's report shed little new light on the allegations against Bonds and the other players reportedly implicated in the federal investigation into a steroid distribution ring run out of the Bay-Area Laboratory Cooperative (Balco) near San Francisco, but Mitchell's report details the grand jury evidence against those players, as leaked to two San Francisco Chronicle reporters.
Staff writer Amy Shipley contributed to this report.