Mitchell updates owners on probe

Mitchell updates owners

PHOENIX -- Former Senator George Mitchell, who has been heading up a nearly year-long investigation into steroid use in Major League Baseball, told the owners on Thursday that he needs more cooperation from them to complete his much-anticipated report.

Speaking at the invitation of Commissioner Bud Selig at the first quarterly meeting of the year, Mitchell told the owners that the "pace of this investigation is dictated by the rate at which information is received."

"I recognize that many clubs are not accustomed to large-scale document discovery," Mitchell told the owners in his prepared remarks that were later released to the media. "So for them this is a new and time-consuming process. And there are serious and credible legal issues which can be and must be resolved. We're working hard to resolve them.

"The Commissioner's office has done everything humanly possible to minimize any risks and to protect the clubs, as well as to reduce the burden on the clubs. I ask you to work with me, in an effort to achieve what I hope is our common goal: a thorough, fair, objective and credible report that is published as soon as possible."

Selig commissioned Mitchell to spearhead the investigation last year after the release of the book "Game of Shadows," which documented the alleged use of performance-enhancing substances by Major Leaguers such as Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, largely from 1998-2002.

Last March, in establishing the investigation, Selig charged Mitchell, a former Senate Majority Leader, with leaving "no stone unturned" when it came to discovering just what happened during those years and even earlier if the path led Mitchell in that direction.

Since then, neither the Players Association nor the players have cooperated with the investigation, perhaps fearing that any remarks made to the committee could be subpoenaed by the federal government in its ongoing case involving the seizure of data and records from the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) in 2003. Five people -- none of them ballplayers -- have been indicted in the scandal and Bonds is currently under investigation for possibly committing perjury before a grand jury about his steroid use.

There has also been some resistance from ownership about complying with Mitchell's committee, which has no subpoena power and can't compel anyone to testify or turn over documentary information, Selig said.

"Look, some clubs have been more cooperative than others," the Commissioner said after the meeting. "But at this stage I'm not concerned about that. We will have cooperation."

Asked if he urged the owners to offer that cooperation after Mitchell's presentation, Selig said: "Urged is probably not strong enough. I'd like to move this along as expeditiously as possible. His statement was very revealing in that sense. I've said this all along: He'll get whatever help he needs from me."

Mitchell's statement was a rare public presentation regarding the investigation, which has remained almost wholly under the radar for the past year.

Under pressure from Congress, MLB instituted drug testing at the Major League level and re-opened the Basic Agreement twice to strengthen the penalties for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and added amphetamines to the testing and penalty schedule.

In the meantime, documented steroid use at the big-league level has become almost infinitesimal, down from the 5-to-7 percent of players who tested positive in 2003, the first year the drug policy was in place. No player on the 25-man rosters of the 30 teams was revealed to have tested positive during last season, though it was announced after the postseason that Mets reliever Guillermo Mota had tested positive. He will be suspended the requisite 50 games to open the 2007 season.


"I believe it will be in your best interests, and the best interests of baseball, if I can report that I have received full cooperation from your organizations, and from others, in conducting this investigation."
-- George Mitchell,
addressing owners

Still, Mitchell, a Democrat from Maine who served in the U.S. Senate from 1980-95 and was the Majority Leader during the first term of Bill Clinton's presidency, warned the owners on Thursday that America's highest legislative body was patiently waiting for his report.

"I don't have subpoena power. Unlike the Congress, or other federal and state authorities, I cannot compel cooperation," Mitchell said. "They can, and if they get involved, they will. I've served in the Senate and as a federal and a state prosecutor, and I can tell you from personal experience: If they get involved, they almost certainly will use their subpoena power and everyone will be forced to cooperate.

"Of course, I cannot predict what the Congress, or other federal or state authorities, or anyone else, will do. But based on a review of recent history, and on many discussions I've had over the past several months, I believe that a report that is not credible and thorough will significantly increase the possibility of action by others, especially if it's the result of a lack of cooperation by the clubs, or by anyone who is or has been involved with baseball.

"And if that happens, for everyone involved, the burdens, the risks, the time involved and the resources required will be much greater than they are now."

The mood in the room was somber as Mitchell made his remarks and the 30 owners or their designated representatives listened with keen interest, said one observer who was inside the room.

Selig added that although there's an increased sense of urgency, he will not press Mitchell to rush his report.

"I've always believed it's better to get things done right than to get them done fast," Selig said. "In this case, there's no timeline because there's no history for this. The Senator has a very able group of people working with him and for him. And he'll get it done as fast as he can."

The Senator, though, said again and again that he needs some help, and he certainly didn't pull any punches with the owners on Thursday.

"When I took on this responsibility, I said that I would follow the evidence wherever it leads, and that in writing my report I will stick to the evidence and let the chips fall where they may," Mitchell said. "That's what I'm going to do.

"I believe it will be in your best interests, and the best interests of baseball, if I can report that I have received full cooperation from your organizations, and from others, in conducting this investigation."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.