In case you have been on a week-long backpacking journey somewhere in the depths of the Amazon jungle over the last week, George Mitchell, the former Senator from Maine, released a report that named 89 MLB players, including superstar Roger Clemens, as using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
Mitchell’s findings were released in 400 pages of interviews with more than 700 people, including 60 former players, thousands of documents, receipts, cancelled checks, telephone records, and emails. Most of the groundbreaking evidence came from Brian McNamee, a former trainer for Clemens and Yankees’ star pitcher Andy Pettitte, who was also fingered in the report. Mitchell has now described the current situation as “baseball’s steroids era.”
In his report, Mitchell made 20 recommendations for the future of baseball. His most important recommendation, according to The New York Times, was that MLB needs to create a stronger, independent and transparent drug-testing program that would implement the best ways to test.
Right now, it is unclear what the Commissioner of Major League Baseball Bud Selig plans to do with Mitchell’s report. Will he punish current players named in the report? What about implicated record holders?
On Wednesday, the Times reported that Donald Fehr, the head of the baseball players union, and Selig have agreed to discuss the recommendations, which could lead to a third reopening of the collective bargaining agreement since 2005 in the ongoing quest to stop the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Fehr said the earliest negotiations could start would probably be after the first of the year. The first Congressional hearing on the Mitchell report is planned for Jan. 15.
The number of players named in the report is very surprising. Or, maybe it’s not. From what it sounds like, anybody with any inside information on baseball knows that this has been going on for a long time and with a good number of players.
On one hand, I find myself defending the players named in the report. Is this report legal? Don’t they have rights? Were any of those rats that were interviewed by Mitchell’s staff interviewed under oath? If I were named in this report, I would deny ’til I die, just like Clemens is going to do. The report takes one man’s word and puts it against another. If I were Clemens, I would simply say, “prove it.” And they can’t.
On the other hand, the report makes me want to slap those named. These players are dumb. They know that there are adverse health effects to using the drugs, aren’t they worried about their million-dollar health? Do they remember Lyle Alzado? The NFL All-Pro who was one of the first in major U.S. sports to admit to the use of growth hormones and subsequently died at the age of 43 from a brain tumor caused by the abuse of steroids. The fate of Alzado is still not enough for these players to refrain from using. Stupid stupid stupid.
What do these players tell their young fans, if anything? Let us not forget that baseball is “America’s Game” and Little League Baseball could be one of the most influential organizations on children in the United States. Now, little league coaches are forced to explain to their players what steroids are and why the likes of Mark McGuire, Clemens and Sammy “I speak No English at Congressional Hearings” Sosa shouldn’t be their heroes. Talk about confusing – the men that have made the sports highlight reel are now the ones in the legal doghouse. For the young athletes of our country, it doesn’t stop with the confusion-factor either.
What about high school players, of any sport, that may soon lose their privacy rights and be subject to random drug testing at the high school level because of these professional idiots? Already in New Jersey, about 500 of the state’s 240,000 high school athletes are randomly tested for performance-enhancing drugs. Where’s the trust we are supposed to be instilling in them? I wonder if the non-athlete kids who are smoking pot after school are being tested in the same way that the “good” athletes are? Is the random testing in high schools even effective? Is it effective in professional sports? I don’t think so. Subjecting our kids to random testing of any kind in the high school level sickens me. It’s just not the way it should be in the United States.
And it’s not just the players who have dug themselves into great, gaping holes, it’s the entire organization – and I hate to say that for those players who have been clean and have worked hard without the added juice. The entire organization brought itself to these crossroads. They should have been at this level of investigation 10 years ago. The real question is whether baseball wants to really eradicate the problem or simply put another band-aid on the wound and save it for another day. It is a sad day to claim that this is “America’s Game,” and I soon hope that changes.