Major League Baseball has announced that former U.S. Senator George Mitchell will lead an investigation into alleged steroid use by San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds and other players. The announcement comes as Bonds hopes to break Henry Aaron's all-time home run record this season.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced the move Thursday, just days before the start of the regular season.
"When it comes to the integrity of this game, an impartial, thorough review is called for," said Bud Selig. "And baseball must confront its problems head-on."
The probe comes after the release of the book Game of Shadows by two San Francisco investigative reporters. In the book, the authors outline how Bonds and other players systematically used drugs. The San Francisco outfielder has never tested positive for steroids, but was associated with several people indicted in the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative - or BALCO - case.
Ironically, the investigation was announced on the day that BALCO founder Victor Conte was released from jail after serving a four-month sentence for his involvement in helping athletes obtain illegal substances.
The 72-year-old Mitchell, a former U.S. Senator from Maine and the chairman of the Walt Disney Company board of directors, is also an executive with the Boston Red Sox. He said that baseball has to be drug free.
"The allegations arising out of the BALCO investigation or otherwise - 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," said George Mitchell.
Selig said that the investigation would be thorough, and will focus on facts, not accusations.
"The goal here is to determine facts, not to engage in supposition, speculation, rumor, or innuendo," he said.
The investigation comes as Bonds is set to break Henry Aaron's all-time home run record this season. The 41-year-old Bonds is in the final year of a $90-million contract with San Francisco and has said he would retire after this season.
Last year, 12 players were suspended for 10 days each following positive dope tests. Major League Baseball toughened its steroid policy after pressure from the U.S. Congress. An initial positive test now results in a 50-game suspension.