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Baseball Report to Reveal Steroid Use
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Baseball Report to Reveal Steroid Use

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Baseball Report to Reveal Steroid Use

Baseball Report to Reveal Steroid Use
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Some of Major League Baseball's prominent active and former players will be linked to the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. They will be named in a 300-page report based on former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's investigation on doping in baseball.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Some of Major League Baseball's most prominent players will be linked to the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs. According to several news sources, the players are named in the Mitchell Report. That report will be released at an afternoon news conference today in New York. Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell has been investigating doping in baseball for nearly 21 months.

Joining us now to talk about this is NPR sports correspondent, Tom Goldman. And good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: This is a long investigation, a lot of secrecy, a lot of anticipation and speculation surrounding this report. Leaks appear to be starting though.

GOLDMAN: That's right. George Mitchell has a 2 p.m. Eastern Time press conference to announce his findings. But baseball officials have had the report for a couple of days and people are talking. The Associated Press, The New York Times, ESPN.com, all have advance information from unnamed sources.

And here are some of the major points they're all reporting. As you mentioned already, prominent players, including all-stars, most valuable players, Cy Young award winners. That's the top award for pitchers. Those high-level names are among in estimated 60 to 80 Major League players who will be linked to banned drugs. None of the sources named names beforehand so we're going to wait to find out who these people are.

The Mitchell Report is about 300 pages long. It's reportedly very thorough. And it blames both the commissioner's office and the players' union for tolerating a serious and widespread drug culture in Major League Baseball.

MONTAGNE: Although it was the commissioner who appointed George Mitchell, Senator Mitchell, to do this investigation, so he's not - he's tough still on the commissioner.

GOLDMAN: Well, that's a good point. And people have pointed out that there may be a conflict of interest because George Mitchell, not only is a director of the Boston Red Sox, but he's had ties to Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in the past. He's worked for him before. So this was going to be the proof. And if, in fact, as the sources are reporting, that, you know, he comes down hard on the commissioner's office then that should be proof that he wasn't partial.

MONTAGNE: The report did have its limitations. George Mitchell didn't have subpoena power.

GOLDMAN: That's right. And without that, he often found it very hard to get people to talk, particularly, players. The players' union was not cooperative during this process. And it's believed only one active player talked to Mitchell and his investigators. That was Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees. And he only did that because of pressure from Commissioner Bud Selig. And sources say Mitchell warns that because information was often hard to come by, it's unlikely the report will put the steroid issue to rest once and for all.

MONTAGNE: And, Tom, of the 60 to 80 players who are said to be named in the report, what's likely to happen to them?

GOLDMAN: As far as punishing them, that's a real gray area. If a player used banned drugs before 2003 when testing began, it'll be hard to suspend them. If players used after that, they may be treated like two players were last week, Baltimore's Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals. They were suspended 15 days at the start of next season because they reportedly were linked to that Albany investigation.

But before the commissioner suspends anyone, he'll have to make sure there's compelling evidence: a positive drug test, documents, receipts. So certainly not all of the 60 to 80 will be sanctioned.

MONTAGNE: And then, of course, the future is of concerned to fans and those who are interested in baseball. Does the report deal with how to deal with the drug problem?

GOLDMAN: Well, it does. In general, the - Mitchell reportedly recommends improving drug testing. He says they should add more year-round test and limit the chances for players to avoid detection. Baseball still has some pretty big loopholes like a one-day advance notice to teams that drug testing is going to happen. For it to be effective like Olympic sports, there has to be the element of surprise, unannounced testing. And Mitchell seems to be moving toward that. Also, he reportedly wants testing done by a truly outside independent agency. Right now, Major League Baseball and the players' union jointly run the program.

MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Tom Goldman.

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Doping Report a Key Test of Mitchell's Fixer Skills

Doping Report a Key Test of Mitchell's Fixer Skills
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Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell on Thursday will release his long-awaited report on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.

Mitchell has led an investigation since March of last year. Several news sources say the report links 60 to 80 former and current players to banned drugs. Speculation is rampant about what else is in Mitchell's document, and whether the former senator will live up to his reputation as a fair-minded problem solver.

Mitchell earned that reputation through a variety of difficult assignments from Congress and presidents.

"I don't know anybody in contemporary American life who has been assigned more tough public jobs than George Mitchell," says Harold Pachios, Mitchell's former law partner and friend of 45 years.

Pachios has watched his friend succeed in those tough jobs — including his tenure as Democratic majority leader of a contentious Senate in the late 1980s and early '90s; and as a peace mediator who helped bring Catholics and Protestants together with the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

Last year, Mitchell agreed to wade into baseball's drug troubles in an effort to bring clarity to a murky world of cheating, lying and tarnished reputations. But from the beginning, the assignment presented Mitchell with problems — many of his own making.

Tom Donaldson, an ethics specialist at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says Mitchell was too much of a Major League Baseball insider to be a truly independent investigator.

"When a supposedly independent investigator is a part of what's being investigated, it's Conflict of Interest 101," Donaldson says.

For starters, Mitchell is director of the Boston Red Sox. It's a paid position — though Mitchell wasn't compensated by the team during the investigation. Up until a year ago, Mitchell was chairman of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN — which paid $2.4 billion to televise major league games through 2013.

The potential conflicts? Critics point to Mitchell's close ties to the Red Sox and concern that he might not be willing to expose baseball management's responsibility in allowing the drug problem to spread. Mitchell has responded by saying he'll be fair and will examine everything. His friend Harold Pachios has no doubt.

"His view of life has always been, 'If you do a good job, if you really do your homework, if you're thorough and intelligent about how you handle these tasks, it speaks for itself, and the rest will take care of itself,'" Pachios says.

Already, reports suggest that Mitchell's document goes way beyond what's commonly known about baseball's suspected steroid era. Media reports of doping began in the late 1980s, but baseball didn't start testing and punishing athletes for more than a decade after.

While owners and the players' union sparred over what that testing program should be, doping allegations caught up with the game's biggest stars. For example, slugger Mark McGwire's reputation disintegrated when he stonewalled Congress on the issue in 2005, saying, "I'm not here to talk about the past."

Mitchell's report, on the other hand, is expected to talk a lot about the past. And baseball is holding its collective breath, wondering where the former senator will point the finger of blame — and whether the report will provide a blueprint for a future in which baseball can move away from lying, cheating and tarnished reputations.

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