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Former National Bennett Says HGH Use Was 'Stupid Decision'

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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 15, 2007

Former Washington Nationals catcher Gary Bennett, a member of the 2006 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, defied the trend that seemed to dominate baseball yesterday, a day after 91 current and former players were linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in a wide-ranging report. In a telephone interview last night, Bennett said, "As far as the report is concerned to me, it's accurate."

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Thus, Bennett did what few players did yesterday: admit to the use of steroids or human growth hormone in the wake of the report issued by former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell.

"Obviously, it was a stupid decision," Bennett said. "It was a mistake. It was something that quite obviously, you regret now."

Few players came forward with either confessions or denials. F.P. Santangelo, a utility infielder with four teams for parts of seven seasons, admitted on his morning radio show in Sacramento that he "panicked" and took human growth hormone twice.

David Justice, a former all-star who was a teammate of pitcher Roger Clemens -- the report's biggest name -- denied his own use, and challenged Clemens to step forward and speak about the accusations against him.

"He should be talking about it," Justice said in an interview on ESPN radio. "If you really didn't do it, say something about it. At least have a conversation about it."

Messages to Clemens's agent and lawyer went unreturned yesterday, as did the vast majority of calls to agents for players who were named in the report. Randy Hendricks, one of the agents for Clemens and New York Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte, said Thursday he was advising Pettitte not to speak publicly.

The strategy around baseball appeared to be to take a measured approach in responding.

"You have to determine what the facts are," said Michael Sitrick, chief executive of Sitrick and Company, a strategic communications firm that deals in crisis management. "We don't go out and just make something up out of whole cloth. We say [to clients], 'Tell us what happened. What are the circumstances?' . . . If it's not accurate, that's easy. You say, 'The report is inaccurate. I never met the guy who they claim gave me these steroids.' But in most cases, you just don't turn to Page 37 and pick a statement out of a book. It's not that simple."

Like Justice, a former rookie of the year and three-time all-star who was accused of purchasing HGH after playing in the 2000 World Series with the New York Yankees, veteran Boston Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling urged guilty players to step forward. Writing on his blog, 38pitches.com, Schilling said he was sick of hearing denials.

"Look, if you ordered HGH or steroids, in your name, and there is documentation to prove that you did, please do us all a favor and admit you made a mistake and move on," Schilling wrote. "If you needed it for medical reasons, then I am sure you can back that up through your physician if you chose to.

"I'm past tired of hearing everything but 'I screwed up' or 'Ya [sic] I made a mistake, I apologize.' "


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