WASHINGTON -- The Commissioner of Major League Baseball and the head of the Players Association both conceded to a Congressional committee on Tuesday that they were slow in recognizing the impact of performance-enhancing drugs on the sport. "I'll take the responsibility," Bud Selig said during a nearly 55-minute session in which he and Don Fehr, the executive director of the union, were cross-examined by members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "That's why I wanted this report." "Certainly, we didn't pay attention soon enough," Fehr said.
In the wake last month of the report issued by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell analyzing the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the same Committee that bashed the sport nearly three years ago for its pace in dealing with the drug issue called some of the same people back together on Tuesday. And during the four-hour hearing, which was split into two sessions -- the first given to Mitchell and the second to Selig and Fehr - there was little rancor from the Congressmen who with regularity popped in and out of Hearing Room 2154 of the Rayburn Building. "There's a reason for that," Selig said afterward about the more comfortable tone of Tuesday's hearing compared with the session of March 2005. "Look at where we were back then and where we are right now." Mitchell, for one, told Committee members he was confident that baseball officials were capable of continuing to put their own house in order and that no legislative intervention was necessary. Unlike hearings of the not too distant past, none was offered or threatened. The members remained composed when neither Selig nor Fehr would commit to an independent administrator to rule over the Major League joint drug-testing policy. At present there's an independent component of the policy, but as part of a three-pronged approach that also includes representatives of management and the union. That recommendation was one of the most poignant in Mitchell's 409-page report, which cited more than 80 players, including seven-time Cy Young Award-winner Roger Clemens, as having used performance-enhancing drugs in some shape or form during the past 15 years. "We'll take a look at it and get back to you," Fehr said when asked about the independent administrator. "It's a fair question," Selig added. "We need to evaluate it." Selig confirmed during the session that he's considering disciplining some of the players and members of management taken to task by Mitchell in the Report. "We should do the players sooner rather than later," Selig said afterward.Regarding assertions by Mitchell that Giants general manager Brian Sabean allowed a drug culture to fester in the team's clubhouse late in the 15-year San Francisco tenure of Barry Bonds, Selig was asked if Sabean should have at least notified the Commissioner's office what was going on. "Of course," Selig told the Committee. And asked if there would be any punishment forthcoming, Selig responded, "It's a matter I have under review." Selig has the power to fine any club in the millions of dollars for failure to disclose such information to his office. Bonds, who's no longer with the team, is currently being tried in a San Francisco federal court on four counts of perjury and one of obstruction of justice regarding his 2003 testimony in front of a federal grand jury regarding his own drug use. Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer, who once had free roam of the Giants' clubhouse, served three months in jail and another under house arrest for his part in the money laundering and illicit drug sale operations of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which was busted by federal agents more than four years ago. Anderson also served more than a year in prison for contempt of court because he refused to testify in front of another grand jury about Bonds, MLB's all-time leader with 762 home runs. On page 126 of his report, Mitchell wrote that Peter Magowan, the Giants' managing partner and chief executive, "recalled asking Sabean directly whether the Giants 'had a problem' after reading the reports of the BALCO raids. Magowan said that what he meant by his inquiry was to ask whether the Giants had a problem with Anderson dispensing steroids. ... According to Magowan, Sabean reported that he was not aware of any problem the Giants might have." Hours after the hearing, the Giants released a statement in which Magowan shouldered some of the blame for the situation. "The San Francisco Giants wholeheartedly support the efforts of Commissioner Selig and Senator Mitchell, and we pledge to embrace every necessary reform to address this serious problem," he said. "When the Mitchell Report was released, I said that we accepted our fair share of responsibility for what has happened. Now we have to do everything we possibly can to work with the Commissioner and Senator Mitchell to effectively combat the use of performing enhancing drugs in baseball." Another matter under review, Selig told the Committee, was a medical exemption, which players can use to legally obtain and use drugs banned under the policy. When it was pointed out that more than 100 players had used that exemption to obtain drugs to fight Attention Deficit Disorder, Selig said the matter had been brought to his attention in a meeting of head baseball trainers last week. "Please stay on it and report back to us," said U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the Committee chairman. The news hooks of the day were provided by the Committee. In his opening remarks, Waxman announced that he and the top-ranking Republican, Tom Davis of Virginia, had asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Miguel Tejada lied to the Committee about his use of performance-enhancing drugs when he was interviewed in 2005. Tejada, then with the Orioles and now with the Astros, denied doing so at the time, but he was noted as having used the drugs in the Mitchell Report. In a letter sent on Tuesday to Michael Mukasey, the U.S. Attorney General, the Congressmen asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Tejada knowingly made false statements to the Committee. "Such statements would constitute a violation of federal criminal law," the letter read in part. Astros GM Ed Wade declined to comment on the situation. Meanwhile, during his cordial cross-examination, Mitchell was asked pointedly if he stood behind the statements of Brian McNamee, the former personal trainer for Clemens and Andy Pettitte, who told Mitchell and federal investigators that he had injected both pitchers with performance-enhancing drugs. "We believe that the statements provided to us were truthful," said Mitchell, in as complete an endorsement of those nine pages in the Report as the congressmen could have hoped for. Clemens, who has consistently denied the allegations and is slated to appear before the Reform Committee, along with McNamee, on Feb. 13, released another statement of denial on Tuesday through Rusty Hardin, his Houston-based attorney. "We have had no criticism of the Mitchell Report, only what it contains concerning Roger Clemens," Hardin said. "Senator Mitchell's testimony today shed no new light on this issue. Roger continues to adamantly deny that he ever used steroids or human growth hormone. He will do so again under oath before the House Committee, giving the public the opportunity to judge his credibility." Selig said that he wouldn't attend that hearing. "I only come when I'm invited," Selig said. "And I haven't been invited." A separate hearing, originally scheduled for Jan. 23 by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, has been postponed, and a new date has not been selected. Clemens is expected to be joined at the Feb. 13 hearings by former Yankee teammates Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, whom McNamee said he also injected with performance-enhancing drugs. Pettitte has corroborated McNamee's statement regarding his own use of HGH. Knoblauch told The New York Times last week that he had "nothing to hide." Kirk Radomski, the former Mets clubhouse employee who was ensnared in the same federal investigation, has also been summoned. But with Tuesday's hearing by the board, Selig said that baseball was on positive footing. "The program is just getting stronger," he said after the hearing was over. Waxman, in closing, praised Mitchell for penning the report, but said it provided a dark assessment of that period for baseball. "[Mitchell] said it himself," Waxman said. "But at least he provided a road map."
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.