Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Days of Destiny – looking back at the Mitchell Report

Nearly two years after Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig asked former United States Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to conduct an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in MLB, Senator Mitchell’s report is expected to be released in the coming days. While Senator Mitchell and MLB officials haven’t yet announced when Mitchell’s report will be released from a public relations perspective, this Thursday November 29 would be the perfect day.

The MLB Winter Meetings begin next Monday. Presenting the report during the Winter Meetings would turn the focus of the Winter Meetings to the Mitchell Report. Offering the report after the Winter Meetings wouldn’t make much sense. The media might be ‘angry’ if after heading to Nashville for next week’s Winter Meetings, MLB announced one of the most important and potentially controversial reports in recent years immediately following the Winter Meetings. Two days from now works perfectly. While we’re living in a 24-hour, seven days-a-week news cycle news and sports reporting world, if the report is unveiled Thursday, the results will be everywhere Friday; the weekend sports fans’ focus will be on this weekend’s college and NFL games. That said, what may make sense from a public relations perspective may not make sense to Major League Baseball when it comes to the Mitchell Report.

Prompted by the revelations in the best selling book Game of Shadows (excerpts from the book appeared in Sports Illustrated in March 2006), on March 30, 2006 Selig announced he had authorized an investigation into reported steroid use by Major League Baseball players associated with the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO). Selig made it clear Senator Mitchell and his team of investigators would have complete autonomy in their investigation.

"Nothing is more important to me than the integrity of the game of baseball," Commissioner Selig said at the time. "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 on that day: "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."

For those who may have forgotten, the probe originally was only going to focus on events since September 2002, when the sport first began testing for performance-enhancing drugs, but Selig and Mitchell have the authority to expand it.

If you’re wondering how MLB might try and spin this story on the same day Selig announced the formation of the Mitchell Commission, MLB released the following fact sheet relating to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

• In 1994, even though the focus concerning steroids was on other sports, Commissioner Selig had the foresight to encourage the Clubs to make a comprehensive drug testing-proposal to the union that included steroids. Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected by the MLBPA. (When in doubt lets blame the MLBPA. And is this what really happened between MLB and the MLBPA in 1994 or was it the cancellation of the 1994 season and the World Series? As for Selig’s so-called ‘foresight’ that is almost nonsensical. This alone suggests Bud and the Lords of the Diamond won’t be held accountable when the Mitchell Report is released.)

• In 1998, after androstenedione was discovered in Mark McGwire's locker, the Commissioner, along with the MLBPA, funded a study to determine whether androstenedione was truly an anabolic androgenic agent. The study was done at Harvard and was an important impetus for the federal regulation of andro and other steroid precursors. (Even better when it comes to how MLB might try and spin this tale. Selig and the Lords of the Diamond were front and center when Big Mac – literally and figuratively – set a new single season home run record on September 8, 1998. Funny how Selig had time to fund a study and celebrate Big Mac becoming the new home run king – all in the same year.)

• In the wake of the androstenedione study, Commissioner Selig began to assemble a group of medical experts to deal with the broader issue of steroids. His efforts in this area started to bear fruit in 2001 when the Commissioner implemented a tough new policy on performance enhancing substances for the minor leagues. The Commissioner could act unilaterally and impose drug-testing in the minor leagues, but not in the Major Leagues where drug-testing is a matter of collective bargaining and must be negotiated with the Players Association. (Again let’s blame the players, while laughing all the way to the bank. Led by Barry Bonds establishing a new single season home run mark with 73 round trippers, MLB sets a new single season attendance record and the sport begins its financial climb. But again lets blame the players for the sports inaction – at the very least it remains what it was then, a shared responsibility between the players and the owners).

• It has been well-documented that this minor league policy has dramatically reduced the usage of steroids in the minor leagues. Even more important, the Commissioner has amended the policy to address new developments in the area of performance enhancing substances and has expanded its scope to cover all of professional baseball including the Dominican and Venezuelan summer leagues.

• In the next round of collective bargaining in 2002, Commissioner Selig again made drug-testing for steroids a bargaining priority. Over heavy union opposition, he succeeded in achieving the first random drug-testing policy ever in the Major Leagues. Since then, the Commissioner has spearheaded two re-negotiations of the drug policy, culminating in the current policy - 50 days suspension for a first offense, 100 days for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third - which is the toughest drug-testing program in professional sports.

• On the political front, Commissioner Selig lobbied aggressively to support federal legislation of steroid precursors that was eventually passed as the Steroid Control Act of 2004. Major League Baseball also provides financial support for steroid education through the Taylor Hooton Foundation and has partnered with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America in its anti-steroids efforts. (Let’s merge this bullet point and the above into one and suggest – let’s try and get real. Prompted largely by Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced” the United States Congress demanded Selig, Donald Fehr head of the MLBPA and a cavalcade of former and current MLB players. It was Congress’ insistence – their threats that forced Selig’s and Fehr’s hand. It’s fair to assume that without Congress leaning on MLB and the MLBPA the two sides might still be in quicksand when it comes to dealing with the use of performance-enhancing drugs.)

However as MLB’s own timeline illustrates when it comes to the use of performance enhancing drugs in MLB the tale is both long and sordid:

June 18, 2002: 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.

July 8, 2002: The Players Association meets in Chicago the day before the All-Star Game at Milwaukee. Fehr gives a lengthy dissertation to the media after the meeting about where the union stands on a number of issues, including privacy concerns regarding random drug testing

August 30, 2002: 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, 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.

March 1, 2003: 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: 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 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.

December, 2003: Ten Major League players, including Barry Bonds of the Giants, and Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, are called 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

March 10, 2004: 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

April 8, 2004: 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 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.

June, 2004: MLB begins drug testing Major League players under the punitive phase of the Joint Drug Agreement

Oct. 22, 2004: 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

November 2004: 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.

Dec. 3, 2004: Commissioner Selig again publicly presses the union to accept stronger terms in MLB's current drug policy. Negotiations have been on going for since May, but have born no fruit. Citing the recent grand jury testimony revelations, Selig says for the first time he would welcome government intervention into the situation if the sides can't reach accord through collective bargaining.

Dec. 7, 2004: The Executive Board of the Players Association, meeting in Phoenix, authorizes its representatives to move forward "to attempt to conclude" a more stringent drug policy with the Commissioner's office, Fehr said.

Jan. 13, 2005: 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: 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 of "60 Minutes" during which the former Oakland A's slugger claims he helped inject teammates McGwire, Giambi Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, among others. During the latter segment, Mike Wallace asks Sandy Alderson, then MLB's executive vice president, baseball operations, if baseball intended to investigate the allegations. After Alderson rejects that notion, members of Congress say they will investigate the matter for baseball.

March 2, 2005: Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources, says that drug testing will begin at Spring Training camps under the auspices of the revised program even though it has yet to be ratified by the union.

March 5, 2005: Selig announces the results of the 2004 drug tests in Mesa, Ariz. 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.

March 8, 2005: 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 Canseco, McGwire, Curt Schilling, Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, and Sosa, plus Selig, Fehr, Alderson and Padres general manager Kevin Towers.

March 17, 2005: 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," McGwire said, declining to delve into the past

March 18, 2005: Various bills controlling the use and testing of drug use in professional sports begin to be formulated in several committees.

April 3, 2005: 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. By early May, five players on the 40-man rosters of various clubs have been suspended the requisite 10 days for testing positive.

April 4, 2005: 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.

April 25, 2005: Selig sends a letter to Fehr stating that the recently strengthened drug policy needs to be strengthened some more with tougher penalties and more incidence of testing. Selig is now calling for a "three strikes and your out approach," to disciplining players who repetitively test positive for steroid use: 50-game suspensions for the first offense, 100 games for the second and third-time offenders to be banned permanently. Selig also says he will unilaterally institute these rules in the Minor Leagues next season.

May 2, 2005: Fehr responds to Selig by letter, saying the matter is open to discussion. After various meetings with MLB officials, Fehr says he must begin the long process of going club-to-club to gauge the sentiment of all the Major League players.

May 11, 2005: During a quarterly meeting in New York, the 30 owners vote unanimously to support Selig's drug proposal put forth in his April 25 letter.

May 13, 2005: 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 16, 2005: Selig says in an open letter to baseball fans that he would support government intervention and the Olympic rules if MLB can't collectively bargain an enhanced drug policy with the union.

May 18, 2005: 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: 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.

May 25, 2005: The House Energy and Commerce Committee passes its bill out of the subcommittee.

Aug. 1, 2005: 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.

Aug. 2, 2005: Mariners pitcher Ryan Franklin receives a 10-day suspension for violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Nov. 2, 2005: Yankees outfielder Matt Lawton receives a 10-day suspension for violation of the Major League Baseball Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

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

Nov. 15, 2005: Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on Tuesday 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. The plan also includes testing and suspensions for amphetamine use.

Dec. 8, 2005: The players union formally approves by a unanimous vote the drug policy it agreed to with Major League Baseball in November.

March 7, 2006: A book written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters and excerpted in Sports Illustrated alleged Barry Bonds began using steroids after the 1998 baseball season and came to rely on a wide variety of performance-enhancing drugs over the next several years.

March 30, 2006: Commissioner Bud Selig announced that former Senate majority leader George Mitchell would head an independent investigation into alleged steroid use by players associated with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO). Selig emphasized that Mitchell has the authority to expand the scope of the probe if necessary.

April 28, 2006: Patrick Arnold, noted scientist in the sports nutritional supplement world, pleaded guilty to supplying the Bay Area Laboratory-Cooperative with the performance-enhancing drug known as "the clear."
June 6, 2006: Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley told federal investigators he used illegal performance-enhancing drugs, according to court documents unsealed.

June 12, 2006: Pitcher Jason Grimsley was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball, less than a week after federal agents raided his home during an investigation into performance-enhancing drugs. Grimsley's suspension was never served because he asked for and received his release from the Diamondbacks and then retired.

June 19, 2006: David Segui, a 15-year major league baseball player who last was on an MLB roster in 2004, said he was one of the players whose names were redacted in the IRS affidavit that said Jason Grimsley received two kits of human growth hormone on April 19.

July 20, 2006: A federal grand jury seated in San Francisco expired without indicting Barry Bonds on perjury charges. A new one was immediately empanelled to review the case.

Sept. 21, 2006: San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who published excerpts from the BALCO transcripts in 2004, were sentenced to 18 months in prison for refusing to reveal their source to the grand jury.

Oct. 1, 2006: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Miguel Tejada were among the players that a former major league pitcher accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, according to a federal agent's affidavit, the Los Angeles Times reported. Baltimore teammates Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons and Tejada also were implicated in the sworn statement, the Times said.

Nov. 1, 2006: Mets reliever Guillermo Mota was suspended for 50 games, becoming the third player penalized in 2006 for violating Major League Baseball's toughened drug policy.

Jan. 18, 2007: Former Senator George Mitchell, who had been heading up a nearly year-long investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball, told the owners that he needed more cooperation from them to complete his much-anticipated report.

Feb. 21, 2007: Troy Ellerman, former lawyer for BALCO president Victor Conte, admitted to being the source of the BALCO grand jury documents leaked to San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada.

Feb. 22, 2007: Former Senator George Mitchell announced that investigators for his committee reviewing the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball planned to visit Spring Training camps to conduct interviews.

Feb. 26, 2007: Barry Bonds and other players under suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs were asked by Major League Baseball's lead steroids investigator to turn over medical records and submit to interviews.

Feb. 26, 2007: The players' association would offer advice but said it's the choice of each individual whether to cooperate with former Senator George Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

Feb. 27, 2007: An Orlando pharmacy was raided by a law enforcement task force, the climax of a large New York state grand jury investigation into Internet drug sales. Among the athletes reportedly on the customer list were Angels outfield Gary Mathews Jr. and boxer Evander Holyfield.

March 2, 2007: Texas Rangers utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. was named by a Sports Illustrated story as the recipient of a shipment of HGH from a New York pharmacy.

April 27, 2007: A former New York Mets clubhouse employee pleaded guilty to distributing steroids to Major League players and was cooperating with baseball's steroids investigation. Kirk Radomski, 37, pleaded guilty to felony charges of distributing steroids and laundering money, charges that carry sentences of up to 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

May 18, 2007: New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi said Major League Baseball should apologize to the public for its widespread performance-enhancing drug problem.

May 23, 2007: Jason Giambi met with Major League Baseball officials over remarks he made in an interview that implied former use of performance-enhancing drugs.

June 6, 2007: Commissioner Bud Selig said that he wanted Jason Giambi to meet with former Senator George Mitchell during the next two weeks before determining whether to discipline the Yankees first baseman regarding statements about his alleged steroid use, which Giambi made to a newspaper last month.

July 6, 2007: Tigers infielder Neifi Perez became the first player disciplined under Major League Baseball's testing program for banned stimulants, receiving a 25-game suspension for a second positive test.

July 14, 2007: Yankees 1B/DH Jason Giambi became the first active player to meet with former Senator George Mitchell in baseball's ongoing investigation into steroid use by major league players.

Aug. 3, 2007: The only player suspended under Major League Baseball's new drug testing program for stimulants was suspended again. Tigers infielder Neifi Perez received his second such sentence in a month, this one an 80-game suspension for another positive test.

Sept. 7, 2007: Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus was the second Major League Player implicated for the purchasing of performance-enhancing drugs via the Internet during the 2004 season, SI.com reported. The news came only hours after the New York Daily News reported that Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, citing records its reporters saw.

Sept. 9, 2007: SI.com reported that Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons had purchased performance-enhancing drugs through Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy from October 2003 to July 2005.

Sept. 13, 2007: Members of the committee headed by former Senator George Mitchell met with representatives of the Albany, N.Y., prosecutor's office as a two-year-old probe into the Internet sale of performance-enhancing drugs continued.

Sept. 19, 2007: Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons became the second of the four players who have reportedly been linked to the procurement of performance-enhancing drugs through pharmacies doing business on the Internet to meet with officials from Major League Baseball.

Oct. 2, 2007: Pitcher Scott Schoeneweis was reported to have purchased six shipments of steroids from Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy while playing for the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and 2004.

Oct. 21, 2007: Prior to Game 7 of the ALCS between the Indians and Red Sox, Cleveland pitcher Paul Byrd was cited in a San Francisco Chronicle report as having purchased human growth hormone in large quantities between August 2002 and January 2005.

Oct. 31, 2007: Padres outfielder Mike Cameron is suspended 25 games, effective the beginning of the 2008 season, for testing positive for a banned stimulant. Cameron became the second player to be suspended for a banned stimulant, following Neifi Perez.

Nov. 6, 2007: Former Mariners outfielder Jose Guillen and two former Major League players -- Matt Williams and Ismael Valdez -- bought performance-enhancing drugs from a Florida clinic, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Nov. 7, 2007: Gary Matthews Jr., the Angels outfielder whose name was the first to surface earlier this year in the probe by an Albany, N.Y., district attorney into the illegal sales of performance-enhancing drugs, met with attorneys for the Commissioner's Office, an MLB official confirmed.

Nov. 15, 2007: Barry Bonds was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice for allegedly lying when he said he did not use performance-enhancing drugs. Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson, was ordered released from prison by a federal judge after being held in contempt for refusing to testify to a grand jury.

Up next the biggest news of all… the release of the Mitchell Report.

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

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