Selig swings back, defends baseball's drug-testing program in post-Mitchell aftermath
CLEVELAND -- Commissioner Bud Selig defended baseball's drug-testing program Tuesday in the wake of the Mitchell Report, which cast a shadow over the sport by singling out some of its biggest stars as cheaters.
Selig, who last week pledged he would act on recommendations made in the 409-page report, insisted baseball has been proactive in identifying players who used steroids and other banned performance-enhancing drugs.
"I'm proud of where we are," Selig said. "We have the toughest testing program in American sports. We banned amphetamines, which were a problem in our sport for seven or eight decades."
Released last week, the long-anticipated report by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell linked more than 80 players to drug use.
Selig said he has read and re-read the detailed report, which named home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens and New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte among the players who illegally bought or used steroids and other substances.
Mitchell, hired by Selig in 2006 to head the investigation, revealed widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in his report. He urged baseball to make sweeping changes to its testing procedures.
In a briefing with reporters that lasted less than four minutes, Selig also cited MLB's funding of a program on human growth hormone and baseball's minor league testing program as proof that he hasn't lagged in efforts to clean up the sport.
"I do hear people from time to time say we were slow to react," he said, "but my minor league program is entering its eighth year and so really from the late '90s on we have been monitoring this thing, doing as much as we can. The things I can do unilaterally I have done and will continue to do those.
"And I think the recommendations that the Senator made are very reasonable."
Selig said he has received little feedback since the release of the report. He entertained just two questions on the subject.
"Obviously, I've lived all this but I think for the time being while I'm studying things and analyzing things I just don't have any further comment," he said.
Since the Mitchell Report was released, Clemens has denied allegations by his former trainer that he was injected with steroids in 1998 while with Toronto and steroids and HGH in 2000 and 2001, while with the New York Yankees. Also, Pettitte and former major league infielder Fernando Vina, now an ESPN analyst, admitted taking HGH while rehabbing from injuries.
On Tuesday, U.S. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning said players accused in Mitchell's report deserve a chance to clear their names. Bunning said MLB owes it to the players to set up judicial hearings so their sides can be heard.
Bunning said that without such hearings, the accused players will be convicted "in the court of public opinion," which he said isn't fair. The Kentucky Republican doesn't want to protect those who used such drugs. He said those players should be "called out" as users.
Selig was in Cleveland to present an inaugural mentoring award named in his honor to Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney for his efforts in advancing minorities.
As far as his own sport's diversity, Selig said he's concerned with baseball's racial imbalance -- on the field. He recently met in New York with 30-35 black players to discuss ways of getting more young black athletes interested in baseball.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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