Mitchell reportedly seeking to talk to dozens more

George Mitchell's investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major Leage Baseball was still seeking cooperation from 45 current and former players as of mid-August, The New York Times reported.

The number of players -- most of them active -- was disclosed in a letter from the Major League Baseball Players' Association to Mitchell. The former Senate majority leader is leading baseball's probe into use of steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs. The Times said the letter was read aloud to one of its reporters by a person representing one of the players.

In the letter, signed by MLBPA general counsel Michael Weiner, the union restated its concerns about players cooperating with the investigation -- namely, that they could face discipline from Commissioner Bud Selig's office, as well as legal ramifications. It also raised the possibility that the final report, if it names players who have already tested positive for banned substances or suspended under baseball's drug policy, would violate the collective bargaining agreement between baseball and its union.

To date, the New York Yankees' Jason Giambi is the only active player known to have cooperated with the Mitchell probe, which does not have the power to compel players to speak.

In a written statement replying to the letter, Mitchell disagreed with the union on a number of key points.

"The Players Association confuses the central issue by arguing that there is no difference between an investigation and a subsequent disciplinary proceeding that may take place," Mitchell wrote, according to The Times. "But an investigation is very different from a subsequent disciplinary proceeding, a fact that is widely recognized in the law.

"Furthermore, in this matter the players retain all of their rights under the collective bargaining agreement which provides them an opportunity for a full, fair and independent hearing if they believe they have been unfairly disciplined," Mitchell said, according to The Times.

As for discipline or legal proceedings, Mitchell said the players would expose themselves to those possibilities "only if the player violated the law and/or the rules of baseball," The Times reported.

Giambi spoke with Mitchell after he was quoted in USA Today as saying, "I was wrong for doing that stuff. What we should have done a long time ago was stand up -- players, ownership, everybody -- and said: 'We made a mistake.' "

Giambi told a federal grand jury in December 2003 that he used steroids and HGH, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in December 2004. Before the start of spring training in 2005, the former American League MVP made repeated general apologies at a news conference but never used the word "steroids."

After Giambi spoke with Mitchell, Selig announced he would not discipline the player.