Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 1 p.m. ET

Congressional Hearings About Steroid Use in Baseball

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Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; 12:00 PM

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform heard testimony Tuesday from officials including Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and former Sen. George Mitchell, who led an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Post staff writer Amy Shipley was online Wednesday, Jan. 16, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the hearings and the impact on baseball's drug policy.

The transcript follows.

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Anonymous: Would it be correct to say that all the players listed in the Mitchell Report basically came from three sources -- the two trainers and BALCO? So even though these trainers seemed to have connections with each team, there are really about 28 other teams that weren't heavily investigated by Mitchell?

Amy Shipley: Hello everyone! Thanks for joining this chat...

That's a great, great point. Yes, virtually all of the information in the Mitchell report came from BALCO, former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski and former trainer Brian McNamee. Without those sources, the report would have almost nothing to report. And yes, one would assume there had to be a few other major sources of drugs, so surely there are players--perhaps dozens??--out there who skirted exposure. Radomski did distribute pretty widely as Mets became former Mets and introduced him to other players around the league, so it's not as if the investigation was so narrowly focused as to be meaningless. But your point is a good one.

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McLean, Va.: What's up with all these congressmen mispronouncing players names? Are they idiots? Does anyone ever correct them?

Amy Shipley: I felt compelled to answer because while I could understand a mispronunciation of "Palmeiro" as Palme-i-ro or something like that, the constant references to "Palmeir-ey" was really hard to understand. I mean, the guy's pretty famous. It was either amusing or sad, I'm not sure.

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Anonymous: I'm not sure I understand exactly what steroids or HGH do to improve a player's performance -- more strength for hitters to hit home runs? The ability to throw harder? Recover quicker from injuries? But why isn't there as big a fuss over "greenies," which have been widespread in the game for decades and certainly could help a player focus or feel more energized for a game (and I bet even a few guys enshrined in Cooperstown have taken them over the years)?

Amy Shipley: Steroids (and HGH to some extent) are believed to do two things (keep in mind there is no legitimate research that fully answers your question).

Steroids definitely build muscle and muscle means strength, so you would figure a guy is going to add a few feet (or a dozen??) to his maximum hitting distance--which in turn will translate into more home runs. Same with pitchers: More strength is going to possibly translate into more miles per hour, though it's probably going to be slight because pitching is a real flexibility exercise. Anyway, some people think HGH also builds strength, in effect, because it causes growth.

Steroids are believed to also help you recover more quickly from high intensity workouts so, in theory, you could train harder and harder and harder, thereby increasing strength and, in theory, adding feet to your max hitting distance and miles per hour if you're a pitcher.

HGH is believed by many to build strength and also help in injury recovery because it promotes overall growth.

Finally, there has been a big fuss over "greenies" or amphetamines. They have been banned in Oly sports for years because the increased focus and energy rush are figured to be performance-enhancing, and such substances finally were banned by MLB in '06.

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Downtown, D.C.: What's the likelihood of the drug testing program ultimately being handed off to an outside agency, as Mitchell recommends? Will MLB and the MLBPA eventually bend? From a PR perspective, don't they almost have to?

Amy Shipley: You might think so, but I don't think they would ever agree to hand off testing to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for fear they would lose to much control to an organization known for hard crackdowns on doping cases. They would have to sign off too much responsibility to USADA and I don't see how that would get through collective bargaining. But you are truly right: If they DID do that, their entire doping problem would be solved from a credibility standpoint. They would get overnight, instantaneous credibility. USADA, it is worth mentioning, has often been called the "gold standard," but it doesn't have the perfect anti-doping system. Nobody does. It doesn't exist. There is no perfect model.

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Boston: So can we put to rest Clemens's lie that he wasn't told about his implication in the Mitchell Report or given a chance to respond ahead of its publication? Mitchell contacted him twice and told him what he was being accused of (albeit not by who or what evidence they had) and the year(s) it was alleged. Since one of those years was 1998 in Toronto, the argument made by the Clemens side that they assumed it was erroneous info from the Grimsley affidavit doesn't hold up either, as Grimsley never played for Toronto and wasn't a teammate of Roger's until 1999 with the Yankees. How many "I don't recalls" do you think Hardin will prep Clemens for on his upcoming deposition so he doesn't end up like Tejada?

Amy Shipley: It will be very, very interesting to see what Clemens says, and how he says it, before the Committee. It is difficult to believe him for sure, but it will be more fair to draw conclusions after he and McNamee have to speak under oath.

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Arlington, Va.: It is tough to see this whole affair as any more then a attempt by the owners, and Selig especially, to clear themselves in the history books for their complicity in all this. Selig doesn't want to go down as the Steroid Commissioner. So, in the end, what we will have is a few players sacrificed at the altar and stiffer testing introduced and maybe enforced. The latter is great, the former ridiculous.

The whole thing is rather sickening.

Amy Shipley: My dispute with your statement is that I don't think it's possible for Selig or the owners to clear their names, whether they are trying desperately to do so or not. The Mitchell report made clear everybody was culpable. Those guys were steering this ship that has, at least on this issue, sunk....

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What steroids do....: Have you seen the several home runs by Bonds in the past year that were basically pop-ups he muscled out of the park? yeah, steroids/hgh may have helped there.

Amy Shipley: And that's my gripe with people who say steroids can't make you into a great baseball player. Yes they can! I agree they can't help your hand-eye coordination. They can't make someone who can't hit a baseball (one of the hardest, if not THE hardest) things to do in sports. But they certainly can add feet onto the best hits of guys who can already hit. Extra feet means extra home runs. Extra home runs means more money, a better legacy. Come on. Steroids can completely and thoroughly change a game and change a player's place in the game. While I'm not any less offended by steroid use in, say, the NFL (rules are still rules and players' health is still their health), it's more difficult to say the league's history has been altered by steroids. I don't think it has--at least not the concrete and stomach-churning way baseball's has. If you have a bunch of offensive lineman on steroids and a bunch of defensive lineman on steroids, they effectively cancel each other out.

There is no canceling-out factor in sports that measure things with a stop watch or a fence and have hallowed records. Home run records become meaningless if some are steroid-aided. Same with world records in the 100 meters in track and field--which has, by the way, exactly the same problem as baseball in terms of the issue of "taint." What's the point of having world records in the 100 if steroids are used to cut a tenth or a hundredth of a second here or there?

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Washington, D.C.: If anyone needs proof of the efficacy of steroids check out Brady Anderson's 1996 output (he looked like a professional wrestler and hit 50 home runs)

Amy Shipley: I will let this stand without comment :-)

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D.C.: Since McNamee alleged Clemens provided the steroids for him to inject, has there been any leads about who allegedly supplied Clemens?

Amy Shipley: Not that I am aware of, and it's a great question. I think the strongest point Clemens has made is that one: McNamee alleged Clemens provided the drugs for McNamee to inject. Clemens said: Ok, so who sold me the drugs? It would be helpful, indeed, to find that person, if he exists. As skeptical as I am, I would certainly feel more comfortable with some sort of proof.

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Burke, Va.: I thought that HGH was also supposed to help with mental focus, which would be a big plus for hitters. Is that just marketing fluff from the people selling HGH, or is it believed to be true by other experts?

Amy Shipley: I would guess it's marketing fluff. Have never heard that.

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Boston: If Selig holds the SF owner and GM accountable (a fine?) can he hold himself accountable as well? A check to charity would do. Isn't there one focused on the effects of steroids on youth athletes?

Amy Shipley: That's a great idea.

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Fairfax, Va.: What if a group of scientists working on curing cancer decided to take a drug that was reported to improve one's IQ by 10 percent, but the drug shrank their testicles and caused hair to grow out of their foreheads. Would we prohibit them from taking such a drug and, further, deny them the highest science prize if they did find such a cure? If your answer is let them take the drugs, what is your answer now about athletes improving their performance with steroids?

Amy Shipley: I'm a bit confused by your example, but I have a simple answer to athletes improving their performance by using steroids or other drugs. Rules are rules. Games have rules. You don't get too feet in bounds, you don't get the completion in the NFL. You put vaseline under the bill of your cap, you get thrown out of the game. Athletes sign on to play games that ban drugs (and, incidentally, amply reward them financially). Therefore, they should not use these drugs. If they want to use these drugs, then they should take up another sport that permits it, or move to another country in which the drugs are legal.

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Amy Shipley: Thanks for joining this chat. I appreciate the thoughts and questions!

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