Baseball: Mitchell set to out superstars in drug expos

Several of the biggest names in baseball, sluggers and pitchers alike, were named in a devastating report yesterday on the systematic drug abuse that took place during the sport's infamous 'Steroids Era' - roughly the decade between 1995 and 2005.

More than a year and a half in the making, the investigation led by the former Senator and Northern Ireland negotiator George Mitchell spared no one. The players, their union, and Bud Selig, Major League Baseball's commissioner, are all blamed for "a collective failure" over the rampant use of performance-enhancing drugs that has cast a shadow over some of the sport's most hallowed records.

For years, Mr Mitchell told a news conference in New York, they turned a blind eye to the steroids problem. Mr Selig and the owners especially were anxious to avoid a showdown with the powerful players union, and to do nothing to halt the surge in home runs that helped bring fans flocking back to stadiums after the 1994/1995 strike.

The scandal first hit the front pages in 2003 with the exposure of BALCO, a small San Francisco area sports nutritional supplements company, as the distributor of illicit steroids to elite athletes. Among its clients were the disgraced Olympic champion Marion Jones and - allegedly - Barry Bonds, baseball's single season and career home run record holder. Bonds currently faces charges of perjury for lying to a grand jury over his reputed drug use.

Since then other players have been linked with steroids, including the potential Hall of Fame sluggers Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa. But the Mitchell report names dozens of other stars. Among them are such idols as Roger Clemens, considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, as well as his New York Yankees team-mate Andy Pettitte.

But even yesterday's revelations may only be the tip of the iceberg. Some retired players have claimed that up to half all major league players, numbering a thousand or more, were using steroids and other banned drugs at the height of the scandal. "They've identified the lowhanging fruit," a source told the Washington Post yesterday, "the odds are that many more are doing things."

The report calls for independent, outside-administered drug testing, to replace baseball's existing in-house system. Under intense pressure to act, Mr Selig from last year toughened sanctions against steroid users, imposing a 50 day (roughly one third of a season) ban for a first offence, 100 days for a second, and a life time ban for a third.

But the regime is still criticised as too lax. Victor Conte, who once ran BALCO, claimed yesterday that baseball rules outlawed only half of the substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Basically, he said, "MLB closes the front door to drugs, but has made clear the side door and back door are open."

In addition, Mr Mitchell said, oil-based steroids were being replaced by water-based ones, which pass through the body more quickly. There was also growing use of human growth hormone, detectable only through blood tests, not urine samples.

The report was is particularly damning in that it was compiled without help from the players' union, which advised its members not to give evidence. The only current player known to have been interviewed is the Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, who had already admitted steroid use.

But key evidence came from Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets employee convicted of running a steroids ring, and from a separate federal probe into illicit drug distribution on the internet.

At the very minimum the report will trigger an embarrassing new round of Congressional hearings. "Baseball has developed a culture of cheating," says Elijah Cummings, a senior Democrat on the House panel that conducted earlier hearings in 2005. "If baseball is on the critical list, we need critical solutions."

In fact, the game is in rude health economically, with attendances, revenues and players' salaries reaching new peaks every year. But the latest batch of famous names could turn away a younger generation of fans, their heroes now tarnished.

The report makes no disciplinary recommendations, and Mr Mitchell yesterday urged that bygone should be bygones. Baseball needed "a new beginning," and would only harm itself if it revisited past controversy. Any offences committed by the players named had occurred between two and nine years ago, he noted, and more than half of them had since left the game.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam