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George Mitchell Speaks to Congress

George Mitchell spoke to Congress today. In his discussion, he opened by stating the serious risks posed by steroid usage by professional athletes. Professional sports stars’ usage of steroids as enabling agents for success have ultimately encouraged young people to use them, as they look up to successful athletes. Mitchell noted that a higher risk for severe injury exists for young adults using steroids than older people. Reports estimate that between two and six percent of high school students use steroids.

Mitchell noted that MLB has had a slow response to combating steroids and initial methods to stopping their usage have proven ineffective. Until 2002, MLB had opposed using random and mandatory testing of players.

Mitchell further stressed that players who used steroids/HGH violated federal law and MLB policy. Such players violated the rules and tried to gain an unfair disadvantage prompting other law-abiding and rule-abiding players to try and use performance enhancing drugs to gain a competitive advantage (or a normalized “advantage” if steroid usage was rampant).

Mitchell stated that steroid abusers “did not act in a vacuum,” however, and that all members of MLB are in someway at fault: a “collective failure.” MLB’s environment fostered widespread illegal use of performance enhancing substances. New measures must be taken, people can’t be “chained to the past;” they can’t go out to find the “name of every player who used performance enhancing substances.” Mitchell admits his findings are not totally conclusive; more violations have likely occurred that are not included in his report. Other facilities such as “rejuvenation centers” have been known to provide players with substances of “doubtful validity.”

Mitchell states that now is the time to look to the future. MLB has a difficult task ahead; they must use a well-planned and well-executed strategy to end steroid/HGH usage in professional baseball. He notes that the adoptions of the steps in his report are a start to making this a reality, but cautions any changes are subject to the rules of collective bargaining agreements.

Mitchell outlined the three areas of improvement he noted his report:

  1. Enhanced capacity to conduct investigation on non-evidence standards. Testing only scratches the surface. Bud Selig has accepted this recommendation by starting a Department of Investigations to respond to promptly and aggressively to steroid allegations. Mitchell stressed strengthening existing efforts: logging and tracking packages shipped to players, random drug tests on club house employees, ensuring that allegations are reported promptly, making club personnel be required sign annual certifications they have “no unreported knowledge” of violations to drug policy
  2. Education. Improved education programs to discuss and explore the dangers of the use of illegal performance enhancing substances.
  3. Drug testing. Even though best drug testing program is not sufficient, drug testing is still important. MLB’s current program agreed to in 2006 stay in effect to 2011. Changes must be agreed to by clubs and players association. Testing should be administered buy a truly independent authority: transparent to the public, providing aggregate reports of results and violations. MLB should have year-round unannounced testing, but must still respect privacy and due process of players

Mitchell concluded by leaving the issue to the commissioner, players, and clubs as to how they will proceed.

Next, we’ll discuss the question and answer session between Congress and George Mitchell, with some excellent questions and surprising answers.

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2 comments for “George Mitchell Speaks to Congress”

  1. [...] George Mitchell’s statement to congress, Congress was given the opportunity to ask questions to George Mitchell. Some questions regarding [...]

    Posted by George Mitchell Q&A with Congress | Sports of Boston | January 15, 2008, 12:19 pm
  2. [...] Mitchell’s testimony this morning on performance enhancing substances brought some very important discussion topics into the [...]

    Posted by George Mitchell Testimony Recap | Sports of Boston | January 15, 2008, 1:41 pm

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