Entertainment & Sports Law

After Mitchell Report, Shame, Blame ... and Reform?

George Mitchell called it as he saw it and named 88 names yesterday in a long-anticipated landmark report about the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. Now the question is, what are those in charge of the game going to do about it?

Surely, no one was amazed to hear that a substantial number of major league players, including some big names in the game, apparently may have violated baseball rules and possibly even broken the law by resorting to banned substances to amp up their performances. However, the Mitchell report stepped up to the plate and made this problem public, requiring league officials to act, after decades of turning something of a blind eye to the issue, media accounts agree. It has been the subject of media speculation since 1988, notes Slate, recapping prior coverage. Yet yesterday’s report is the first major official attempt by the league to address it.

“Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades—commissioners, club officials, the players’ association, the players—shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era,” Mitchell said yesterday in a press conference, according to the Boston Globe. “There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.”

Mitchell’s recommendations for resolving the problem include increased testing of players for banned substances, establishing an independent testing program that isn’t run by Major League Baseball, and cooperating with law enforcement officials, the newspaper notes. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who asked Mitchell to investigate and report on the game’s snowballing steroids scandal, said he intends to follow Mitchell’s recommendations.

“But for Mitchell’s reform program to take effect, Selig will have to win the agreement of the powerful Major League Baseball Players Association, which for years resisted efforts to punish players who use steroids,” the San Francisco Chronicle points out.

“Meanwhile,” the article continues, “the commissioner will have to decide for himself whether to discipline the active players among the 86 current and retired players identified in Mitchell’s report, including home run king Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young award-winning pitcher Roger Clemens.”

An online copy of Mitchell’s report (PDF) is provided by the Wall Street Journal. It is also summarized in a Chicago Tribune article.

Additional coverage:

Associated Press: “Mitchell Report Spurs Calls for Reforms”

WBBM (Chicago): “Steroids Report Could Affect Collective Bargaining”

Upper Cumberland Daily News: “Bud Selig’s Statement on Major League Baseball and Steroids”

ABAJournal.com: “Mitchell: MLB Steroid Use Rampant”

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