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Baseball Officials Testify to Congress on Steroids Report


Officials of major league baseball have testified before a congressional committee about a report released last month linking more than 80 players to allegations that they used or possessed performance-enhancing steroids and human growth hormone. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, the author, former Senator George Mitchell, says it's up to Major League Baseball, baseball clubs, and the union representing players, to act on key recommendations.

Since the Mitchell report was released, one star player, pitcher Roger Clemens, has vehemently denied allegations by a former trainer detailed in the report, that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

But a former teammate of Clemens, Andy Pettitte, confirmed claims by the trainer, Brian McNamee, that he had received hormone injections.

Testimony by Clemens, Pettitte, and others before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has been pushed back to next month amid ongoing negotiations with their attorneys.

In the first committee hearing Tuesday, former senator Mitchell placed the burden for action on the shoulders of Major League Baseball, and the player's association:

"My work has been completed. Now it is up to the [Major League Baseball] Commissioner, the clubs and the players to decide how they will proceed," he said.

Mitchell credits baseball commissioner Bud Selig for creating a special department to investigate drug-use allegations, for strengthening measures aimed at keeping illegal substances out of baseball clubhouses, and strengthening unannounced random drug tests.

But some lawmakers such as Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays, question why stronger measures in the future should be subject to negotiations at all:

"Why should cheating be a matter of collective bargaining?" he asked.

Democratic Committee chairman Henry Waxman refers to what he calls a damning aspect of the Mitchell report, namely that baseball club owners, the baseball commissioner, and the players union acted slowly and ineffectively:

"The steroid scandal is not just about ball players," he noted. "In my view, not enough attention has been paid to the Mitchell Report's indictment of the people who run baseball. The player's seem to have been surrounded by enablers, and officials willing to look the other way. In the end the owners and the commissioner's office are every bit at fault as the players."

"I decided to do this investigation so that no one could ever say that baseball had something to hide, because I certainly did not," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. "Baseball accepts the findings of this investigation, and baseball with act favorably on its recommendations."

Both Selig and player's association Executive Director, Don Fehr, said they accept responsibility for the growth of steroid use.

Fehr responded this way when the question was asked by Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry:

MCHENRY: "Do you two feel complicit in the rise of steroid use in major league baseball?"

FEHR: "As I indicated in my testimony, we didn't pay enough attention to it soon enough. If that fits your definition of complicit then the answer is yes."

While he considers his role in the steroid investigation complete, Mitchell says he would respond to future requests from the parties involved, and he had this message for baseball:

"Knowledge and understanding of the past are essential if the problem is to be dealt with effectively in the future," he said. "But being chained to the past is not helpful. Baseball does not need and cannot afford to engage in a never-ending search for the name of every player who ever used performance-enhancing substances."

Although Mitchell declined to say what action he thinks should be taken against players found to have used performance-enhancing drugs, he did say he believes testimony in his report concerning alleged drug use by Roger Clemens is credible.

The House committee will has scheduled its second hearing into the baseball-steroids matter for February 13, when key current and former players named in the Mitchell report are expected to appear.