In his first official statement since Alex Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing substances while a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig expressed sadness and anger while repudiating Rodriguez's past choices and once again detailed the significant steps MLB has taken to eradicate the problem.
"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the revelations concerning Alex Rodriguez's use of performance-
enhancing substances," Selig said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "While Alex deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using such substances and those who use them have shamed the game.
"What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. His actions are also a reminder to everyone in baseball -- under our current drug program, if you are caught using steroids and/or amphetamines, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for steroids has been suspended for as much as 50 games. Eradicating performance-enhancing substances from the game of baseball has been my first priority over the past decade and it is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity."
The statement outlined several steps MLB has taken to fight drug use. Under Selig's watch, the use of performance-enhancing substances has decreased from more than 9 percent to lower than 1 percent; he successfully negotiated getting a testing program added to the Basic Agreement in 2002, and with the mandatory random testing penalties that began in 2004, MLB now has "the toughest program in professional sports with the stiffest penalties."
Subsequently, Selig commissioned Senator George Mitchell in 2006 to investigate the use of performance-enhancing substances in MLB. The Mitchell Report concluded that the current program was an effective deterrent. MLB also established an independent department of investigations, which has 11 full-time staff members, to work with federal authorities in helping target drug use. The league began background checks and more drug-testing for clubhouse personnel, and for the first time, MLB tested potential selections in the First-Year Player Draft.
Since adopting all of the Mitchell Report's recommendations, positive tests in baseball have dropped to 5 from 7 percent in the 2003 survey test to less than one-tenth of a percentage point in 2008. During the past three years, MLB has had only eight players test positive for steroids -- three in 2006, two in 2007 and three in 2008.
MLB's testing program, which is conducted at the WADA-certified laboratory in Montreal, is unannounced, random and year-round and uses the most modern technology. In addition to two mandatory tests during the season, every player is subject to additional year-round, random testing. There is no limit to how many times a player can be tested. And in 2006, MLB expanded the program and began to randomly test for amphetamines, thus attacking a problem that had existed in baseball for decades.
In Thursday's statement MLB said it is "well aware that keeping up with the chemists and the drug users is a difficult task and that the lack of a valid test -- blood or urine -- for Human Growth Hormone is problematic, not only for baseball but for all sports."
But the league, along with the National Football League, is funding Dr. Don Catlin in his search for a urine test for HGH and is partnering with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the United States Anti-Doping Association, and the NFL in the Partnership for Clean Competition, which is devoted to anti-doping research.
MLB also pointed out that it helps fund the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Partnership for a Drug Free America, organizations dedicated to educating America's youth and their parents about the dangers of using performance-enhancing substances.
"I regularly meet with professional athletic trainers and doctors who keep me apprised of their current views on performing-enhancing substances," Selig said. "They have expressed confidence that the current program is working and that the use of these substances by our players in today's game is negligible.
"We are fully committed to ridding our game of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances. These drugs and those who use them and facilitate their use threaten the integrity of our sport. It is disappointing that others may have acted to thwart or prevent a legitimate drug testing program from being implemented sooner. That only served to stiffen our resolve. We are very proud of the enormous progress we have made, and it is important to note that the recent revelations are at least five years old and a residue of pre-program behavior. But we will not rest or relax our efforts until the use of these illegal drugs are gone from baseball."