A Defensive Shift
Saturday, December 15, 2007
NEW YORK, Dec. 14 -- One day after releasing an explosive report on steroid use in baseball, former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell said Friday he included virtually all the names of players for whom he had uncovered "credible" evidence of doping. He defended his inclusion of Roger Clemens and others for whom the only evidence was witness testimony.
"Much of the information we received we were able to corroborate, and we put it in the report," Mitchell said. "Our effort was to publish as much as we reasonably could."
In an interview at the offices of his law firm, DLA Piper, Mitchell drew a distinction between his report -- which was "conducted," he said, "for a private entity," Major League Baseball -- and legal proceedings, which require a different standard of proof. He also reiterated that players were each offered the chance to speak to the investigators, but in the case of Clemens and most others, the players declined or did not respond.
"People are bandying about [the word] 'hearsay,' using the word to describe direct eyewitness testimony," Mitchell said. "I've tried hundreds of cases. If you go into a court, that's evidence. Some people in the media tend to regard evidence as something other than testimony, and somehow [argue] that testimony doesn't qualify as evidence. Well, of course it's evidence, and there's no higher quality of evidence than direct eyewitness, personal-participation testimony."
In his report, Mitchell included testimony from former Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee, in which McNamee described injecting Clemens with steroids on several occasions between 1998 and 2001.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner who is considered one of the greatest pitchers of all-time, "vehemently denies" Mitchell's charges, according to his lawyer, Rusty Hardin, who said the allegations came from "uncorroborated" statements from a "troubled and unreliable witness." He also equated the charges in Mitchell's report to slander.
"Inevitably, some people will disagree with the judgments" in the report, Mitchell said. "I expected that. I understand it. But I think what we've presented speaks for itself in that regard."
In addition to testimony, the Mitchell panel relied on canceled bank checks and shipping labels and receipts provided by onetime New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk J. Radomski, in addition to handwritten notes and media accounts.
On a day when few of the 91 implicated players stepped forward to refute or accept the report's findings, the news vacuum was filled by government officials calling on baseball and its union to adopt Mitchell's recommendations, which include making the drug testing program fully transparent and independent.
"Players and owners must take the Mitchell report seriously," President Bush told reporters in the White House Rose Garden. "I'm confident they will." Bush, the former co-owner of the Texas Rangers, also urged fans not to "jump to any conclusions on individual players" named in the report.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform committee that held contentious hearings over steroids in baseball in March 2005, pressed the sport to take a step beyond those recommended by Mitchell -- urging baseball, through a spokesman, to store all urine samples from testing until a reliable test for human growth hormone is developed.
The Oversight committee will hold a hearing on steroids in baseball on Jan. 15, with both Commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr expected to testify. A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee also scheduled a hearing on steroids in baseball for Jan. 23.