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Selig fires back, defends baseball's drug-testing program

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.