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The Sun Shining

Commissioner Bud Selig and former senator George Mitchell release report on the “Steroids Era”

Commissioner Bud Selig and former senator George Mitchell release report on the “Steroids Era” Justin Lane/epa/Corbis

In 2006, Commissioner Selig authorized a commission headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to investigate the history of steroids in the game. Working without subpoena power, the Mitchell commission had been able to convince only a handful of players to cooperate. Still, its report, issued in December 2007,was a damning indictment. Players on every team illegally took drugs to enhance their performances, and club owners, general managers and managers routinely considered players' possible steroid use when discussing their injuries, or strategizing about trades and contracts.

Tom Verducci talks about how all players are tainted by the steroid era

Although eighty-nine players were named, the most sensational section of the report was devoted to allegations of extensive doping by the most successful pitcher of the previous fifteen years, Roger Clemens. Like Bonds, Clemens had performed well into his forties, – winning a total of 354 games and a record seven Cy Young awards. Clemens accused his former trainer of lying and vehemently denied doing anything wrong.

In the coming months and years, the revelations kept coming. Hoping to build a perjury case against Bonds, federal investigators seized the results of the drug tests the players had taken under a promise of confidentiality in 2003. The Players' Association contested the evidence grab in court, and by 2009 an appeal bench had ordered that the tests be turned back over to the union. But it was too late. In early 2009, someone illegally leaked the name of the most prominent player who had tested positive for steroids, Alex Rodriguez, whom many in baseball were hoping would one day surpass Barry Bonds' career home run mark and put a new, drug-free face on baseball's most visible record.

Bob Costos on the steroid scandal

A-Rod tearfully admitted to using steroids – something he had previously denied on national television. In the wake of Rodriguez' confession, Boston's beloved Big Papi, David Ortiz, insisted that he did not use steroids, and that baseball's penalties should be even harsher: "You do what you got to do. Yeah, whatever they say. Ban them for a whole year."

Five months later, Ortiz's own name was leaked from the same list. So was Sammy Sosa's.

Before the 2009 season, former Red Sox favorite Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance and became the first major star to reap a fifty-day suspension.

In early 2010, Mark McGwire, saying it was now time to "talk about the past," admitted that he had used steroids for most of his career, including 1998, the year he was so celebrated for breaking the single season home run record.

  • Joe Torre talks about moving on from the steroid scandal
  • Tom Verducci talks about how challenging it is to have a 'drug free' baseball

Joe Torre talks about moving on from the steroid scandal

Tom Verducci talks about how challenging it is to have a 'drug free' baseball

Later that summer, Commissioner Selig announced that baseball would begin testing minor leaguers for human growth hormone – in addition to providing urine samples, players for the first time would also have their blood drawn for drug testing. As both testing and penalties became more stringent, home run totals declined, and Major League Baseball could make the claim that the steroids era was finally over. But the incentives and opportunities for cheating could never be fully eliminated from the game, any more than they could be removed from any other human endeavor.

From THE TENTH INNING film script and the new chapter by Kevin Baker of Baseball: An Illustrated History.

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