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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Mitchell Investigation into Steroids in Baseball: An Overview

On March 3, 2006, Major League Baseball Commissioner, Bud Selig, announced that MLB would begin a full-scale investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs since MLB had banned such drugs as part of the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2002.

At a press conference, Selig named former Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, to head the open-ended investigation. Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox, as well as chairman of The Walt Disney Co., the parent of ESPN, but insisted his affiliations would have no effect on the investigation. While the investigation was to focus on 2002 or later, Mitchell was free to investigate anything or any time that was relevant to understanding the problem of drugs in baseball.

"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. 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."

While the investigation was initiated by the Commissioner’s office, Senator Mitchell was to have "complete independence."

The investigation has been in and out of the news since then. Here are some of the more newsworthy moments since the investigation began.

Mark Mcgwire Avoiding Mitchell Investigation

In August 2006, it was reported that Mark McGwire had not cooperated with the investigation. A source familiar with Mitchell’s investigation told the New York Daily News that Mark McGwire had refused to meet with Mitchell.

"They're getting no cooperation from McGwire. He wants nothing to do with this. He doesn't want to talk to them. He doesn't want his people to talk to them."

During his infamous testimony to the congressional panel McGwire, while he wouldn’t discuss the past, said he would help discourage the use of drugs in the future.

"I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor."

Mitchell May Seek Subpoena Power

In January, Mitchell told Major League Baseball’s owners that the investigation was taking a long time because some were not cooperating with the investigation. He told the owners that a lack of cooperation would “greatly increase” the chances of government intervention.

"When I began, I was, of course, aware that I do not have the power to compel testimony. From the outset I believed the absence of such power would significantly increase the amount of time necessary to complete the investigation, and it has."

Keith Ausbrook, Republican general counsel for the committee, said he's almost certain Mitchell had not been in contact with the panel about this issue, but that the government would consider helping Mitchell if he were unable to get the necessary help.

"We've certainly been very interested in his investigation and what the results are going to be. If he's not getting anywhere, we'll certainly consider whether to re-engage in it."

Barry Bonds Won’t Cooperate With Investigation

On February 1, Bonds and the other players connected to BALCO were sent a letter urging their cooperation, and a waiver that if signed would allow investigators access to Bonds’ medical records.

On February 26, Barry Bonds’ Lawyer, Michael Rains, told ESPN that Bonds couldn’t cooperate with Mitchell’s investigation while he was under investigation by federal authorities for perjury and tax evasion charges. Rains told ESPN that he contacted Kevin Ryan (who was heading the governments BALCO investigation) and asked directly if Bonds was still under investigation.

"I told them that I would like to have Barry give an interview to Mitchell and his people, but I am not going to do it, Mr. Ryan, unless you tell me you're done with it. And if you won't even tell me one way or the other, then you leave me no alternative."

Ryan replied with a letter in which he said "We can't confirm or deny that we are conducting any proceedings related to Mr. Bonds." Bonds never interviewed with Mitchell or his representatives.

Gary Sheffield Says Mitchell Investigation is a Witch Hunt

Sheffield told USA Today that he wouldn't be participating in MLB's performance-enhancing drugs investigation. He told the paper that the union said that the investigation was a witch hunt and its main purpose was to incriminate Barry Bonds.

"The (players) association told us this is just a witch hunt. They don't want us to talk to them. This is all about getting (Bonds).

"If this was legitimate and they did it the right way, it would be different. But this a witch hunt. They're just trying to collect a lot of stuff that doesn't make any sense and throw the shit against the wall."

Mitchell to Interview Active Players

In February Mitchell announced that he and a team of investigators would be attending spring training because it was an opportunity to have many parties all in the same place at one time. He later said he wished to interview active players for the first time.

As spring training wound down, it was reported that Mitchell had asked to interview "a number of current and former players." It appears as though this would be the final phase of the investigation as Mitchell also said he expected the investigation to be done in a matter of ‘months.’

The union has yet to respond but Union leader Donald Fehr said during his spring training tour that each player will decide on his own whether to cooperate with Mitchell.

"We'll continue to talk with them as things arise, but I've got no other comment."

 
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