Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Senator Mitchell – There is no gas in his engine II

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.

Today in part II of SBN’s Insider look at the issue of performance-enhancing drugs we’ll conclude our historical timeline and discuss why and how Major League Baseball should move on from the performance-enhancing drugs era.

Jan. 13, 2005 – Players and Owners Agree to New Drug Program, Names to be Made Public. During a quarterly owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., the owners vote unanimously to accept recently concluded negotiations between MLB and the union strengthening the drug program. The new punitive measures for Major Leaguers are a 10-day suspension for the first positive test, 30 days for the second, 60 days for the third, and one year for the fourth. All without pay. On the first positive, the players name is released to the public. The program is separated from the Basic Agreement, which expires on Dec. 19, 2006, and is extended until 2008.

Feb. 14, 2005 – Juiced, Jose Canseco’s Autobiography, Steroid Tell-All Released
Jose Canseco's new "tell all" book about his life in baseball using steroids and sharing them with some of his former teammates, hits the stores. The revelations are widely played in the media and carried by CBS in two segments on 60 Minutes during which the former Oakland A's slugger claims he helped inject teammates Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, and Juan Gonzalez, among others.

Mar. 5, 2005 – Selig Announces 1-2% of Players Fail Tests in 2004. Selig announces the results of the 2004 drug tests in Mesa, Arizona. Selig says he's "startled" by the drop in positive test results from 5-to-7 percent in 2003 to between 1 to 2 percent in 2004. The actual numbers were 12 positive tests in 1,183. No player tested positively twice, so under the rules of the old program, they were neither suspended nor had their names released.

Mar. 8, 2005 – Reform Committee Requests, Then Subpoenas MLB Players and Executives. The House Government Reform Committee calls a hearing in Washington to hear testimony from MLB executives, plus current and former players about steroid use in MLB. At first, the government sends out invitations, which are turned down by the various parties. The Committee then issues subpoenas, which are fought by MLB. In the end, all agree to attend, including Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and Sammy Sosa, plus Selig, Fehr, Alderson and Padres general manager Kevin Towers.

Mar. 17, 2005 – McGwire Refuses to Talk, Palmeiro Denies Use to Reform Committee
At the 11-hour hearing that is sometimes contentious, Congressmen again tell MLB and union officials to beef up their drug program "or we we'll do it for you," said Henry Waxman, the committee's top Democrat. "And you don't want that." McGwire, almost in tears at times, tells the Committee that he has been advised by his attorneys not to discuss the issue. "My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family or myself. I intend to follow their advice." Palmeiro vehemently denies ever having used steroids, and Sammy Sosa's lawyer reads a statement saying that Sosa has never done steroids or anything against the law in the United States or the Dominican Republic.

Apr. 3, 2005 – Alex Sanchez Tests Positive, First Major Leaguer Suspended
Tampa Bay's Alex Sanchez becomes the first big league player to test positively under the new Joint Drug Program. He is suspended for 10 days.

Apr. 4, 2005 – MLB Announces 38 Minor Leaguers Test Positive
MLB announces that 38 Minor Leaguers all tested positive for steroid use. Most of them were suspended for 15 games. By the end of the month, more than 50 Minor Leaguers have been suspended. The tally for all of 2005 was a staggering 82.

May 3, 2005 – Tom House Admits to Steroid Use in 1970’s
Former pitcher, Tom House, in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle admits to a failed experiment with steroids, and claimed 6 or 7 pitchers on every staff were fiddling with steroids or hGH in the seventies. House attributed steroid use at that time to the general prevalence of the drug culture in the 1960s and 1970s.

May 13, 2005 - Committee Hears Evidence on Legislation to Regulate Testing
A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee calls the Commissioners and union leaders from all five professional sports leagues to testify at two days of hearings to discuss a proposed bill that would regulate the testing of players for steroid and amphetamine use. Among the proposals under consideration are penalties that match international and Olympic rules: a two-year suspension for the first positive test and a lifetime ban for the second.

May 18, 2005 – Reform Committee to Intervene, Set Testing Standards
Selig, the NHL's Gary Bettman, the NBA's David Stern and the MLS's Don Garber appear before the subcommittee, which again tells them that the government is ready to intervene and set standards for drug testing in all professional sports. "In a perfect world I'd rather this just be done in collective bargaining or voluntary acceptance by the players in respective sports," said Congressman Joe Barton (R-Tex.)."But obviously we don't live in a perfect world. And in this case we need federal intervention. I think we've gone too long."

May 24, 2005 – Reform Committee Floats bill Calling for Olympic-type Testing
The House Government Reform Committee floats a bill also supported in the Senate by McCain. The new bill also calls for Olympic-type penalties of a two-year suspension for a first positive drug test and a lifetime ban for a second. The next day, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passes its bill out of the subcommittee.

Aug. 1, 2005 – Rafael Palmeiro Tests Positive for Stanozolol
Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is suspended for 10 days by Major League Baseball for violating its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. He denies any intentional use of steroids. Later Palmeiro suggested his positive test may have been the result of a tainted vitamin B12 shot he got from Miguel Tejada.

Nov. 10, 2005 – Congress Declines to seek Perjury Charges Against Palmeiro
A Congressional subcommittee decided to not seek perjury charges against Rafael Palmeiro following its investigation of the player's emphatic Capitol Hill statement that he had not used steroids.

Nov. 15, 2005 – MLB, Players Agree to New Testing Program, Penalties - 50, 100, Life
Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on a plan that significantly strengthens penalties for steroid and other illegal drug use. Penalties for steroid use will be 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. For the first time the plan also includes testing and suspensions for amphetamine use.

Mar. 23, 2006 – Game of Shadows Released, Details Massive Doping Conspiracy in Track, Baseball, Football
The book, by Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, expanded their reports in the San Fransisco Chronicle in 2004 about the dealings of the Bay Area Labratory Co-op (BALCO). Citing mainly the leaked BALCO transcripts and court documents, the reporters pieced together the massive steroid conspiracy involving 'undectable' designer steroids, sophisticated training programs, and the supplement industry.

Apr. 13, 2006 – U.S. Government Investigating Bonds for Perjury and Tax Evasion
Multiple media reports say the U.S. government has begun investing Barry Bonds for possible perjury and tax-evasion charges. The case would prove difficult without the testimony of Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson who twice went to jail rather than answer questions about Bonds.

Jun. 7, 2006 – Feds Raid Jason Grimsley’s Home, Admits Use, Names Others
Federal IRS agents raided the Arizona home of Jason Grimsley. Grimsley admitted using performance enhancing drugs and gave investigators the names of current and former major leaguers who have also used performance-enhancing drugs. He began cooperating with probers after he accepted a $3200 shipment of hGH at his Scottsdale residence on April 19, but his cooperation lasted only one week, until investigators tried to get him to wear a wire and gather evidence against other players including Barry Bonds.

Jun. 21, 2006 – Paxton Crawford Admits Steroid and hGH Use
In an interview with ESPN the Magazine, Crawford admits using steroids and hGH during the 2000 and 2001 seasons while playing for the Boston Red Sox. In the interview, Crawford said steroids ‘had a hold of the game’ and that players were ‘walking around like zombies.’

Jun. 18, 2006 – David Segui Admits to Using hGH 'Legally'
David Segui went on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" and revealed that he was one of the redacted names from the Jason Grimsley affidavit. Segui claimed his drug use only consisted of hGH, was legal, obtained with a prescription, but never reported his use to Major League Baseball.

Sept. 21, 2006 – Game of Shadows Authors Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison
San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who together published excerpts from the BALCO transcripts in 2004, were sentenced to 18 months in prison for not revealing their source to the grand jury on August 15. The 18 months represents the length of a typical grand jury term. Williams and Fainaru-Wada do not have to report to prison pending their appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Oct. 1, 2006– Redacted Names From Grimsley Affidavit Leaked, Clemens, Pettitte, Tejada, Roberts, Gibbons
The Los Angels Times said an anonymous source with access to the unedited version of the Grimsley affidavit let the newspaper view it, but didn't provide a copy. The Times said a second source that identified the other players provided additional details about the document. Grimsley reportedly acquired steroids, hGH, and amphetamines from a source referred to him by Brian McNamee, strength and conditioning coach for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. The affidavit also states that Grimsley told federal agents that former Orioles teammates Migeul Tejada, Brian Roberts and Jay Gibbons all "took anabolic steroids."

Dec. 1, 2006 – Eight months into his investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, Senator George Mitchell announces his investigation has failed. "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."

There are two very important reasons why at the end of the day, Mitchell’s investigation is much to do about nothing.

Before 2004 it was legal to use steroids in America. It was however illegal to distribute and sell steroids. It has been illegal to use steroids since 2004. The 1991 Drug Act permitted the use of steroids by prescription (schedule III drug), not otherwise. However, the 2004 Act reclassified steroids into a tougher classification and explicitly bans possession.

Baseball didn’t begin a comprehensive drug testing program until 2004. However it is worthwhile remembering then commissioner Fay Vincent issued a memo in 1991 stating: “The possession, sale or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited ... [and those players involved] are subject to discipline by the Commissioner and risk permanent expulsion from the game.... This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids…"

If there is a sense of moral outrage from Major League Baseball officials, where was that outrage in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa saved baseball from itself as the two went head-to-head in surpassing Roger Maris’ 37-year single season home run record. Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961; McGwire hit 70 in 1998, Sosa 66. Ask Major League Baseball and their cable partner ESPN how they felt on September 8, 1998 when McGwire hit home run number 62 at Busch Stadium? Even better ask Major League Baseball officials how they felt in the days following the horrific events of September 11, 2001 when Barry Bonds established a new single season record with 73 home runs?

Major League Baseball has set single season attendance records each of the last three seasons. How many Major League Baseball officials honestly can look at themselves in a mirror and not thank McGwire, Sosa and Bonds for reviving Major League Baseball? If the fans are buying tickets in record numbers and owners could care less, who then does care and why?

The self-righteous media continue to offer a holier than thou attitude. In the last seven days since the Baseball Writers Association of America released the 2007 nominees for the Baseball Hall of Fame, the moral indignation directed at Mark McGwire being on the ballot demonstrates how much members of the media believe they’re God’s, protectors of the game. As the timeline clearly demonstrates MLB’s steroid era began in the early 1990’s, and there wasn’t a firm drug testing policy until the 2005 season.

The members of the Baseball Writers Association of America clearly believe they know who used performance-enhancing drugs and who didn’t. How else can they vote for Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, but not for Mark McGwire when all three players have Hall of Fame credentials? There is nothing whatsoever to suggest Ripken or Gwynn ever used performance-enhancing drugs. McGwire – he’s out because of the accusations of a convicted felon (Jose Canseco) and March 17, 2005 when McGwire embarrassed himself at the Congressional Steroid Hearings. A foundation of the American legal system is your innocent until your proven guilty. The Baseball Writers Association of America not only is perverting a foundation of what makes America great, but they’ve made themselves out to be judge, jury and the ones who ultimately decides who is guilty and who is not, regardless of whether or not there’s any proof.

You have to feel terrible for Sen. Mitchell, consider what this man has accomplished in his lifetime: Senator Mitchell, a former Federal Judge and United State Attorney, is now a partner at DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary. He and members of his law firm will be assisted by Jeffrey Collins, a former United States Attorney and now a partner in the Detroit office of Foley & Lardner, as well as Thomas Carlucci, a former Assistant United States Attorney and now a partner in the San Francisco office of Foley & Lardner.

Senator Mitchell served the public as a Senator from Maine (1980-1995) and as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He has had extensive investigative experience, having led numerous criminal investigations as a United States Attorney. Senator Mitchell also led the United States Olympic Committee's investigation into allegations of impropriety in the bidding process in connection with the selection of Salt Lake City for the 2002 winter games.

In 1996, the governments of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland asked Senator Mitchell to chair the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. Senator Mitchell led the negotiations for two years, work that ultimately resulted in an accord that ended decades of conflict. In May 1998, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. He received numerous awards and honors recognizing his service in the peace talks, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom on March 17, 1999.

Also, at the request of President Bill Clinton and Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Senator Mitchell served as chairman of an international fact-finding committee on violence in the Middle East. The Committee's recommendation, widely known as the Mitchell Report, was endorsed by the Bush Administration, the European Union, and many other governments.

A lifetime baseball fan, Senator Mitchell currently is on the Board of Directors of the Boston Red Sox. He is also Chairman of the Board of the Walt Disney Company.

When Bud Selig asked Sen. Mitchell to find the answers to the questions that needed answering, Selig had to know Sen. Mitchell was doomed to fail from the start. Friday, after Sen. Mitchell waved the white flag, Selig didn’t have a great deal to add.

“If we could get definitive answers, it would help,” Selig said in a telephone interview Friday, adding, “The one thing left is the one thing you’re talking about: What happened during X period of years.”

In no way is it right for athletes to use performance-enhancing drugs. It takes away from everything sport should stand for. It’s easy to understand why athletes do whatever they have to be bigger and better; you can run faster, hit harder and make a great deal more money. There are those who suggest Sen. Mitchell will allow baseball to have closure of the steroid era if he is allowed to ‘get the truth out’. Would anyone really trust any athlete who’s earned tens of millions of dollars to admit they took performance-enhancing drugs during their career? Especially if they’re retired. And if the records of baseball players for the last 15 years are as tainted as members of the media would like everyone to believe they are, did Babe Ruth really hit 714 home runs in an era when African-Americans where barred from MLB. Baseball managed to move on from its racist past, its time it moved on from its performance-enhancing drugs era and stopped the witch-hunt.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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