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Baseball Officials Testify on Steroid Use in Sport

January 15, 2008 at 6:30 PM EDT
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At a House hearing Tuesday to discuss the recent report by former Sen. George Mitchell on the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Players Union Chief Donald Fehr pledged to improve safegaurds against steroid abuse in the sport.

JIM LEHRER: Now, leaders of Major League Baseball tell Congress about the steroids era. Judy Woodruff has our report.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Baseball’s top officials came to Capitol Hill today to discuss the findings of a report from former Senator George Mitchell that laid out the wide use of steroids in the game.

But before Mitchell even began his testimony, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Chairman Henry Waxman announced a surprise of his own.

The committee asked the Justice Department to investigate whether shortstop Miguel Tejada lied to the panel in 2005 when it was conducting its own investigation into steroid use.

REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D), California: Mr. Tejada told the committee that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and that he had no knowledge of other players using or even taking or talking about steroids.

Well, the Mitchell report, however, directly contradicts key elements of Mr. Tejada’s testimony. The conflict is stark and fundamental to the committee’s 2005 investigation.

Mitchell report findings

JUDY WOODRUFF: The focus then turned to what Mitchell found in his report. Tom Davis is the ranking Republican.

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), Virginia: The report names 89 players with varying degrees of involvements with steroids and HGH, but they are just part of a far wider culture within a sport that values homeruns and victories over fair play.

JUDY WOODRUFF: After being sworn in, Senator Mitchell urged the public and the media not to focus on individual players named in the report.

FMR. SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL (D), Maine: 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.

I urge everyone involved in Major League Baseball to join in a well-planned, well-executed, and sustained effort to bring the era of steroids and human growth hormone to an end and to prevent its recurrence in some other form in the future. That's the only way this cloud will be removed from the game.

Recommended changes

JUDY WOODRUFF: The report outlined a series of recommendations, including having the drug-testing regimen strengthened, making it a year-round and random program, and having it conducted by a truly independent agent.

Sitting side by side, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and his sometime adversary, players union head Don Fehr, responded to those recommendations.

BUD SELIG, Commissioner, Major League Baseball: I fully support each of the 20 recommendations for improving our program that Senator Mitchell included in his report. Almost all his recommendations that do not require bargaining with the Players Association have already been implemented.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But Players Association head Doug Fehr was not ready to commit to all of them.

DONALD FEHR, Players Association Union Chief: I recognize that many of you hope that I will today endorse all of Senator Mitchell's recommendations. Unfortunately, the situation has been muddied a bit by the commissioner's unilateral imposition of some of the recommendations. He did so even though these unilateral changes affect our members and even though we have never declined to discuss any potential improvements.

Bearing responsibility

JUDY WOODRUFF: Selig and Fehr were grilled at times about their tenure during the steroids era.

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), Maryland: This scandal happened under your watch. I want that to sink in. It did. I have a very simple question. Do you all accept -- you all, you, individually -- accept responsibility for this scandal, or do you think there was nothing you could do to prevent it?

DONALD FEHR: If the question is, did we or did I appreciate the depth of the problem prior to the time that we began to work on it hard? The answer is no. If the question is, should we have? Perhaps we should have. It's a failure that we didn't, and it's a failure that I didn't. We can't change that.

BUD SELIG: I've thought about this thousands of times. I've been in this sport all my adult life. I agonize over that, because I consider myself, in the end, a baseball man.

Do I wish we had reacted quicker? Should we have? Yes, one can make a compelling case. And I do a lot of introspective thinking, and I'll second guess myself. But as far as responsibility, of course. All of us have to take responsibility, starting with me.

Impending players' testimony

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Oversight Committee will hear from current and former players next month. Among them, all-star pitcher Roger Clemens. The Mitchell Report says Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs. He has denied the accusation.

ROGER CLEMENS, Major League Baseball Pitcher: I don't need the Hall of Fame to justify that I put my butt on the line and I worked my tail off. And I defy anybody to say I did it by cheating or taking any shortcuts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clemens is expected to appear before the House committee on February 13th, along with his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who says he injected Clemens with steroids.