Steroid Report Implicates Top Players

Steroid Report Implicates Top Players 


Published : December 14, 2007 / THe New York Times

Roger Clemens, who won the Cy Young award a record seven times, and seven players who won baseball’s most valuable player award were among dozens of players named Thursday in the former Senator George J. Mitchell’s report on his investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

“For more than a decade there has been widespread anabolic steroid use,” Mr. Mitchell said in a news conference announcing the results of a 20-month investigation he led at the behest of Major League Baseball. He said the use of performance-enhancing substances “poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game.”

Clemens was the most prominent name in the report, along with the Most Valuable Player award-winners Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, José Canseco, Jason Giambi, Juan Gonzalez, Mo Vaughn and Miguel Tejada.

The report also includes the names of three of the top 10 home-run leaders of all time: Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero.

Mr. Clemens was among several players named in the report from the Yankees championship teams of the late 1990s, which put together one of the most dominant performances in baseball, winning three consecutive World Series from 1998 to 2000. Others from those teams included Andy Pettitte, David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch. Other players named included Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Lenny Dykstra, Denny Neagle, Todd Hundley, Mike Stanton, Paul Lo Duca and Eric Gagné.

“Each of the 30 clubs had a player or players involved in taking illegal substances,” at one time or another, Mr. Mitchell said. He called the years on which he focused his investigation “the Steroids Era.” “If there are problems, I wanted them revealed,” said Bud Selig, baseball’s commissioner since 1992. “His report is a call to action, and I will act.”

The evidence against the players includes receipts, checks and e-mail, much of it provided by Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who has pleaded guilty to federal charges for selling steroids from 1995 through 2005. Mr. Radomski cooperated with Mr. Mitchell as part of his plea bargain. Other evidence came from Brian McNamee, a former trainer for Mr. Clemens and Mr. Pettitte and from an investigation led by the Albany County district attorney into Signature Pharmacy.

Don Hooton, who became an outspoken critic of steroid use after his son Taylor committed suicide after using the drugs, attended the news conference Thursday and said of the Mitchell report: “This is more than about asterisks and cheating; it’s about the lives and health of our kids.”

Mr. Canseco, the former slugger who was named in the report and wrote a book about steroids use in baseball, also was in attendance.

In his report, Mr. Mitchell called for tougher testing and an independent body to investigate and judge players who do not test positive for drugs but for whom there was evidence they purchased or used them, known as “non-analytical positives.”

Mr. Selig noted that he had the authority to implement several of the recommendations, but that the majority — including any changes to the sport’s drug testing policies — would first have to be agreed to by the players’ association under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Mr. Mitchell’s report did not address the use of amphetamines in sports, nor did it call for blood testing, the only way to detect human growth hormone.

He did say that baseball should not punish players for their past misdeeds, noting that it was time for baseball to look forward. Mr. Selig did not rule out possibly punishing players.

The report was littered with juicy details including Mr. Radomski telling investigators that he once found a wet delivery package filled with $8,000 in cash from Mr. Brown on his porch; Mr. Justice denying that he used steroids but providing the names of players that he suspected of using them; and Mr. McNamee injecting Mr. Clemens in the buttocks with steroids approximately four times in 1998.

The use of anabolic steroids bloomed in baseball during the long-ball age that followed a players’ strike from August 1994 to April 1995. A record-setting home run duel between McGwire and Sammy Sosa helped renew interest in the game, and Bonds followed with his record 73 home runs.

“Former commissioner Fay Vincent told me that the problem of performance-enhancing substances may be the most serious challenge that baseball has faced since the 1919 Black Sox scandal,” Mr. Mitchell said in the report, referring to the Chicago White Sox’ throwing of the World Series.

Mr. Mitchell’s report was critical of both the commissioner’s office and the players’ union for tolerating performance-enhancing drugs in major league baseball.

“There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Mitchell has been battling the union during his 20-month investigation, but his criticism of Mr. Selig, who hired Mr. Mitchell and is paying for his investigation, was more unexpected and supported Mr. Mitchell’s claim that baseball officials did not interfere with his investigation.

“Everybody in baseball — commissioners, club officials, the players’ association, players — shares responsibility,” Mr. Mitchell said. “I can’t be any clearer than that.”

Henry A. Waxman, a Democrat from California and the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, released a joint statement with Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia and the ranking minority member of the committee, that called the Mitchell report “sobering.”

“This is a sad day for Major League Baseball but a good day for integrity in sports,” the statement said. They said they would ask Mitchell, Selig and Fehr to testify at a Congressional hearing Tuesday.

In the report, Mr. McNamee said he had personally injected Mr. Clemens four or five times since August 2001. Mr. Clemens had previously been suspected of steroid usage, but denied it. The report was the first confirmation that Mr. McNamee provided testimony to Mr. Mitchell.

“Brian McNamee said that he was a direct eyewitness and a participant in alleged illegal use by three players whom he served as a personal trainer,” the Mitchell report said. Mr. Mitchell interviewed Mr. McNamee in July, October and December of 2007.

Mr. McNamee spoke to Mr. Mitchell’s investigators under pressure from federal prosecutors investigating the use of steroids in baseball. Mr. McNamee, who was linked with Mr. Radomski, provided evidence against Mr. Clemens, Mr. Pettitte and first baseman David Segui. Mr. McNamee agreed to cooperate with the United States Attorney’s Office under the terms that he would not be charged with a crime if he told Mr. Mitchell and investigators the truth.

Mr. Clemens had a 40-39 record from 1993 through 1996 and was not re-signed by the Boston Red Sox. The next year, he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays and began working out with Mr. McNamee.

Mr. Clemens had two of the best years in pitching history in 1997 and 1998, winning the Cy Young Award in both seasons and also led the league in wins, earned run average and strikeouts. He then went on to pitch for the Yankees from 1999 through 2003.

After Mr. Clemens declined to 14-10 with a 4.60 ERA in 1999, New York hired Mr. McNamee as assistant strength coach. During one stretch after that, Mr. Clemens won 27 games against three losses for the Yankees.

Mr. Clemens, who retired last season, has been considered one of the best pitchers in baseball history. Information and evidence from Mr. McNamee could raise questions about whether Mr. Clemens should be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Mr. McNamee, 40, of Breezy Point, N.Y., worked as a strength coach for the Blue Jays and the Yankees. He was also the personal trainer for Mr. Clemens and Mr. Pettitte. Mr. McNamee, who holds a master’s degree in sports science from Long Island University, has also taught at St. John’s University.

Partly as a result of that advice from the players’ association, only one current major league player, Mr. Giambi, is known to have cooperated with the investigation, and then only after Mr. Selig threatened to suspend him for tacitly acknowledging steroid use.

“Almost without exception all current players declined my invitation and refused to meet and talk with me,” Mr. Mitchell said.

A former prosecutor and United States senator, Mr. Mitchell was appointed by Selig to conduct the investigation in March 2006.

Through the 1990s, even as newspapers reported that as many as one in five baseball players used steroids, Mr. Selig and the union played down the issue. “If baseball has a problem, I must say candidly that we were not aware of it,” Mr. Selig said in 1995.

In 2000, The New York Times reported steroids were rampant in baseball, but a baseball spokesman said they “have never been much of an issue.” In 2002, after a Sports Illustrated cover story said baseball “had become a pharmacological trade show,” the commissioner and the union finally agreed on a testing policy.

Random tests would be done in 2003 without penalties. If more than 5 percent of players failed the tests, penalties would be imposed starting in 2004, which is what happened. The penalty for a first offense was treatment, and for five violations, a one-year suspension. That policy failed to satisfy critics.

In 2005, as a congressional hearing was approaching, Mr. Selig and the union reopened the collective-bargaining agreement to toughen the penalties to start at a 10-day suspension and public identification of a first offender.

At the time, Mr. Selig cited a survey showing steroid use in baseball had fallen to 1 to 2 percent in 2004, compared with 5 to 7 percent in 2003.

“I have an enormous responsibility as the commissioner to clean this thing up,” Mr. Selig said then. “The fact is, we had a problem. The fact is, we’ve done something about it. We have done now as much as we can do.”

But when a House committee subpoenaed the actual policy documents, it found they were more lax than had been claimed. The penalty for a first offense was actually a 10-day suspension or a fine. If a player was only fined, he would not be identified.

Outraged members of Congress blasted Mr. Selig and Mr. Fehr. Senator John McCain wrote, “I can reach no conclusion but that the league and the players’ union have misrepresented to me and to the American public the substance of M.L.B.’s new steroid policy.”

The next month, after the televised hearing, at which Mr. Sosa denied use and Mr. McGwire declined to answer questions, Mr. Selig wrote the union to ask for a new steroids policy, “three strikes and you’re out.” It would apply a 50-game suspension for a first offense, 100 games for a second offense and a lifetime ban for a third offense.

Mr. Fehr and the players’ association approved the three-strikes policy in December 2005.

Three months later, Mr. Selig appointed Mr. Mitchell to conduct his investigation.

Mr. Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, was appointed by Mr. Selig on March 30, 2006, one week after publication of the book “Game of Shadows” detailing the drugs used by Mr. Bonds during his record-setting home run spree. Mr. Bonds, the single-season and all-time home run leader, was charged a month ago with perjury and obstruction of justice for his 2004 testimony to a federal grand jury.

Mr. Mitchell has conducted the investigation with the help of his law firm DLA Piper, where he is a partner. Mr. Mitchell has made few public statements throughout the investigation and many of the details have been guarded.

Mr. Mitchell, a Democrat, has headed many investigations since he left the Senate in 1995, and is known for his work in seeking a settlement in Northern Ireland and for his Middle East diplomacy under President Bill Clinton. He serves as a director of the Red Sox, a post he refused to vacate despite accusations that his investigation might be biased toward the team.

The investigation first sought background information from former players and others associated with the game and later specific evidence, including medical records and computer hard drives from baseball organizations.