Monday, December 04, 2006

Senator Mitchell – There is no gas in his engine I


On Thursday March 30, 2006 Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced former Sen. George Mitchell to head a full-scale investigation into the past use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. More than eight months later, as the baseball winter meetings begin in Orlando, Senator Mitchell’s investigation has proven to be an utter waste of time, an embarrassment to Senator Mitchell, and with Selig confirming he’s going to retire in three years, the failure of Senator Mitchell’s investigation sullies the Selig’s image.

"When I began, I was, of course, aware that I do not have the power to compel testimony or the production of documents," Mitchell said in a statement on Friday. "From the outset I believed that the absence of such power would significantly increase the amount of time necessary to complete the investigation, and it has."

While club officials have testified, Mitchell can't order any of the unionized players to cooperate. No player is known to have testified.

"My investigative staff has conducted hundreds of interviews and received thousands of documents; however, much more work will be necessary," Mitchell said. "Cooperation has been good from many of those from whom we have sought testimony and documents, but has been less than good from some others. This will not affect the result of the investigation, but it has increased the length of time it will take me to complete the investigation."

Evidently when all is said and done, sentiments expressed by Selig, Mitchell and others when the investigation was announced on the eve of the 2006 season hasn’t amounted to anything.

"He has permission to expand the investigation and to follow the evidence wherever it may lead," said Selig, emphasizing the last four words of the statement after making the announcement during a press conference at the Commissioner's office on what is now an uneventful Thursday, March 30.

Selig’s rationale for moving forward with an investigation came on the heels of the release of “Game of Shadows” the New York Times best selling book written by San Francisco Chronicle reporters, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. Sports Illustrated published an expert from the book that focused on allegations Barry Bonds had allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs during the 2001 season when Bonds established a new single season home run record with 73 home runs.

"The speculation was originally fueled by the testimony of players before a federal grand jury investigating into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) and by an alleged relationship between certain players and BALCO defendant, Greg Anderson," Selig said, referring to Bonds' former personal trainer, who was indicted along with three others by the grand jury. "A recent book has amplified the allegations and raises ethical issues that must be confronted head on."

"I have asked Sen. Mitchell to attempt to determine, as a factual matter, whether any Major League players associated with BALCO or otherwise used steroids or other illegal performance-enhancing substances at any point after the substances were banned by the 2002-2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement," Selig said. "It may be that conduct before the effective date of the 2002 Basic Agreement will be helpful in reaching the necessary factual determinations. If the Senator so concludes, he will investigate such earlier conduct as well."

"Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the game of baseball," Commissioner Selig said. "The unique circumstances surrounding BALCO and the evidence revealed in a recently published book have convinced me that Major League Baseball must undertake this investigation.

"Senator Mitchell is one of the most respected public figures in the nation. His career in public service is beyond reproach and his integrity and leadership ability are beyond question. Major League Baseball is fortunate and pleased to have a person of such high character and acclaim to lead this investigation."

Senator Mitchell said: "I accept the responsibility placed on me by the Commissioner in full recognition of the seriousness of the many issues raised by the task. The allegations arising out of the BALCO investigation that Major League players have used steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs have caused fans and observers to question the integrity of play at the highest level of our national game. These allegations require close scrutiny."

Selig can say whatever he’d like to on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs, but in looking back at the history of the use of performance-enhancing drugs by baseball players Major League Baseball was a lot like a salmon swimming upstream (salmon die at this point, unable to complete the swim)

Nov. 18, 1988 - Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988
This law amended the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and created criminal penalties for persons who "distribute or possess anabolic steroids with the intent to distribute for any use in humans other than the treatment of disease based on the order of a physician." Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-690, Section 4181.

Oct. 5, 1990 - 1990 Anabolic Steroids Control Act
Believing that the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 legislation was insufficient, Congress quickly replaced it with the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990.

Jun. 7, 1991 – Commissioner Fay Vincent Issues Memo Regarding Steroid Use
After the U.S. Congress raises penalties for steroid possession, Commissioner Fay Vincent sends a memo to each team indicating that steroids would be added to Major League Baseball’s banned list. The memo stated: "The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players or personnel is strictly prohibited ... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs ... including steroids." The seven-page document didn't include a testing plan -- that had to be bargained with the union -- but it did outline treatment and penalties.

May 7, 1992 - The FBI Steroid Sting - Operation Equine
Curtis Wenzlaff was arrested May 7, 1992 for steroid distribution charges. The FBI found steroid regiments related to Mark McGwire. Years later, Wenzlaff admitted publicly to helping Canseco go from a novice user to steroid guru but refuses to discuss McGwire.

Oct. 25, 1994 – Supplements Industry Deregulated by U.S. Government
Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act passes, deregulates supplements industry.

Jul. 1995 – Randy Smith, Tony Gwynn and Jason Giambi Discuss Steroids with LA Times. Padres GM Randy Smith tells LA Times, "We all know there's steroid use, and it is definitely becoming more prevalent." In the same article, Expos GM Kevin Malone calls steroids “the secret we’re not supposed to talk about,” and Tony Gwynn estimates 30% of players using. Giambi says he’s heavier, stronger, and able to stay that way, then praises McGwire for his influence.

Aug. 22, 1998 – Mark McGwire and Androstenedione
A jar of androstenedione is discovered in the locker of St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire, who is neck and neck with Sammy Sosa in the great chase for Roger Maris' all-time record of 61 homers hit during the 1961 season. McGwire admits he uses the steroids precursor and goes on to hit a then record 70 homers. Using steroids, precursors or performance-enhancing drugs is not illegal at that point in Major League Baseball.

April 3, 2000 - 'Gen XXL' Implies Steroid Use in Early 1990s
In one of the first major media analyses of steroid use in baseball, Jeff Bradely described an encounter his brother, Scott, had with a former player who said that if he were still playing he would be using steroids. The article for ESPN Magazine said Scott never used steroids and was out of baseball within a couple of years.

Jun. 30, 2000 - Manny Alexander and Carlos Cowart
Carlos Cowart is pulled over driving Manny Alexander’s Mercedes. Cowart is taken into custody due to a previous warrant and the car is impounded and then searched. Police found vials of steroids and syringes in the glove compartment. A decision was made not to pursue the steroid charges against Cowart, a clear indication the police believed they were not his. Instead they pursued only the items from the previous warrant, driving without a license and failing to stop.

Apr. 2001 – MLB Implements Minor League Testing
MLB unilaterally implements its first random drug-testing program in the Minor Leagues. All players outside the 40-man roster of each Major League club are subject to random testing for steroid-based, performance enhancing drugs, plus drugs of abuse (marijuana, cocaine). The penalties are 15 games for a first positive test, 30 games for a second, 60 games for a third, and one year for a fourth. A fifth offense earns a ban from professional baseball for life.

Jun. 18, 2002 – U.S. Senate Tells Selig, Fehr to Negotiate Testing
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and John McCain (R-Ariz) tell Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association executive director Don Fehr that a strict drug testing program at the Major League level must be negotiated during collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, which is about to expire. Up to this point, no MLB player can be tested for drug use without probable cause. Fehr tells the committee that the Congress should enact laws to ban over-the-counter sales of performance-enhancing substances.

May 28, 2002 -- Ken Caminiti Admitted Using: Steroids (Non-specific). What he said: In an interview with Tom Verducci for Sports Illustrated Magazine, Caminiti admitted to using steroids, beginning in 1996 while he was recovering from a shoulder injury. Caminiti was the first star player to admit to using steroids. Caminiti estimated that 50% of players were using performance-enhancing drugs. Caminiti's admission was published in a May 28, 2002 article entitled Caminiti Comes Clean. On October 10, 2004, Caminiti dies from a drug overdose in a Bronx drug house.

Aug. 30, 2002 - MLB Unveils ‘Survey’ Testing For 2003
MLB and the union unveil Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program as an addendum to the new Basic Agreement, which is bargained at the 11th hour just as the players are about to go out on strike. The new policy calls for "Survey Testing" in 2003 to gauge the use of steroids among players on the 40-man rosters of each club. The tests will be anonymous and no one will be punished.

Feb. 17, 2003 – Steve Bechler, 23, Dies from Heat Exhaustion
Steve Bechler, a Baltimore Orioles pitcher, collapses on the field in Florida during a Spring Training workout and dies from heat exhaustion. He is 23 years old. An autopsy showed that the over-the-counter, performance-enhancing drug, Ephedra, was found in his system and was considered by the medical examiner as the primary cause of Bechler's death. Subsequently, MLB places Ephedra on the list of banned drugs at the Minor League level and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans it from over-the-counter sales

Mar. 1, 2003 – MLB Survey Testing Begins
Drug testing begins in Major League Spring Training camps. Some teams, including the Chicago White Sox, consider balking at taking the tests to skew the results. A refusal to participate in the "Survey" phase is considered a positive test. That first year, all MLB players on the 40-man rosters are subject to be randomly tested once. In addition, MLB had the right to retest up to 240 players a second time by the end of the season. All players ultimately complied and took the tests.

Oct. 29, 2003 – FDA Bans THG, MLB Follows Suit
The FDA bans THG. The next day MLB places the designer drug on its testing list for the 2004 season, but is barred by its own agreement from retroactively re-testing the 2003 urine samples for THG traces.

Nov. 13, 2003 – MLB Announces 5 to 7 Percent of Players Fail Survey Testing
MLB announced that 5-to-7 percent of 1,438 tests were positive during the 2003 season, well above the threshold, setting in motion mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs with punishments for the first time in Major League history. The first positive test put a player on a medical track that includes treatment and further testing. Otherwise, there's no punitive for a first positive test.

Dec. 2003 – Ten MLB Players to Testify before BALCO Grand Jury
Ten Major League players, including Barry Bonds of the Giants, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, are to testify in front of a San Francisco grand jury investigating the machinations of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), owned and operated by Victor Conte. None of the players are charged with using performance-enhancing drugs, although four men, including Conte and Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and childhood friend, are indicted for tax evasion and selling steroids without prescriptions.

Mar. 10, 2004 – Senate Commerce Committee has Hearing, Begins Legislative Process
The Senate Commerce Committee holds another hearing. Selig and Fehr again appear to testify. They are told in no uncertain terms that MLB's current drug policy is not strong enough. McCain says: "Your failure to commit to addressing this issue straight on and immediately will motivate this committee to search for legislative remedies," thus setting the legislative process in motion.

Apr. 8, 2004 – BALCO Grand Jury Subpoena’s Major League Baseball’s Anonymous Test Results. The grand jury presiding over the BALCO case issues a subpoena to obtain the results of all the drug tests collected from Major League players during the 2003 season. After negotiations by the union, which argues that the subpoena is violating privacy rights afforded to the players in the Joint Drug Agreement, the drug tests are turned over.

May 11, 2004 – MLB Moves Testing and Samples to World Anti-Doping Agency
MLB and the Players Association agree to move all of the collection of urine samples and drug testing for both the Major Leagues and Minor Leagues to World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) facilities in Montreal and Los Angeles.

Jun. 2004 – MLB Begins Steroid Testing, Counseling, Anonymity, for 1st Offense
MLB begins drug testing Major League players under the punitive phase of the Joint Drug Agreement. The program includes anonymity and counseling as punishment for a first offence.

Oct. 22, 2004 – The Anabolic Steroid Control Act. President Bush signs into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 that the U.S. Congress passed earlier in the month. The bill added hundreds of steroid-based drugs and precursors such as androstenedione to the list of anabolic steroids that are classified as Schedule III controlled substances, which are banned from over-the-counter sales without a prescription. By virtue of MLB's own agreement with the union, all of the drugs banned by Congress are now on baseball's own banned list.

Nov. 2004 – The BALCO Transcripts are Leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle
The San Francisco Chronicle prints portions of leaked grand jury testimony given the previous year by Bonds and Giambi. Giambi reportedly admits injecting himself with steroids, and Bonds reportedly says he unwittingly may have allowed his former trainer, Anderson, to rub cream that had a steroid base on his legs.

In Tuesday’s second part of SBN’s Insider’s look at the tainted and failed history of MLB’s failed efforts to control the use of performance-enhancing drugs, more history and why at the end of the day no one really cares – especially baseball fans.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report: The Steroidera.com and MLB.com

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