US baseball rocked by drug claims

Report says Major League Baseball has a “culture of performance enhancing drugs”.

Barry Bonds: Many feel his home run reocrd was tarnished by alleged drug use [GALLO/GETTY]

Dozens of America’s baseball superstars from Barry Bonds to Roger Clemens have been named in the long-awaited Mitchell Report on steroids use, which the Major League Baseball hopes will help clean its tarnished image.

The report by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell called for unannounced year-round testing by an independent body to help end a pervasive culture of performance-enhancing drug use among all 30 big-league teams.

It was highly criticial of baseball ownership for overlooking the problem and the Players’ Association for resisting drug testing in the past.

Among those players named for using steroids included a virtual Hall of Fame of some of the sport’s biggest stars of recent years: Clemens, home-run king Bonds, Andy Pettitte, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Eric Gagne, Miguel Tejada and David Justice.

Bud Selig promises action [GALLO/GETTY]

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who commissioned the report, said he would act on the recommendations.

Although Mitchell’s report said it did not think players cited should be punished, Selig said he reserved the right to discipline active players named in the report.

“I’m going to review his findings and the factual support,” Selig said.

“Punishments will be taken on a case-by-case basis.”

In his news conference, Mitchell said, “For more than a decade there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball in violation of federal law and baseball policy.

“The response by baseball was slow to develop and was initially ineffective,” said Mitchell, who launched the independent probe into doping in baseball in March 2006.

The report drew heavily on testimony from a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who cooperated as part of a plea deal with federal officials after his arrest for distributing drugs.

Clemens cited

One of those named, New York Yankees pitcher Clemens, a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award as best pitcher, angrily denied the allegations.

His denial came after the report involved detailed accounts by Clemens’ personal trainer, Brian McNamee, of steroid use by the pitcher.

A lawyer for Clemens issued a statement saying he was outraged his name was included in the report.

“Roger has been repeatedly tested for these substances and he has never tested positive. There has never been one shred of tangible evidence that he ever used these substances and yet he is being slandered today,” attorney Rusty Hardin said.

Mitchell said that so pervasive was the use of steroids, which help build muscles and endurance quickly, that “hundreds of thousands of children” were also using them in sports.

“Every American, not just baseball fans, ought to be shocked by that disturbing truth,” he said.

Fews fans will be surprised that Bonds
was named [GALLO/GETTY]

Mitchell said steroid use fell after the adoption of a mandatory random drug-testing program in 2002, but club officials routinely discussed substance use when evaluating players.

But since the start of steroids testing, the use of Human Growth Hormone rose because, unlike steroids, it is not detectable through urine testing, he said.

Serious challenge

Mitchell said former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent told him the problem was possibly “the most serious challenge that baseball has faced since the 1919 Black Sox scandal”; when Chicago White Sox players conspired with gamblers to affect the outcome of the World Series championship.

The investigation linked more than 50 players to performance-enhancing drugs who had not been previously associated with doping and also named 24 others who had been previously cited in press reports and by the BALCO probe.

Reaction was swift.

“By and large, the conduct of the players’ association was a disgrace and an outrage,” Dick Pound, chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency said.

“Very few players came forward, they had to be dragged screaming.”

The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, said, “It is a sad, sad day for the national pastime and all who love America. All involved should be ashamed.”

Source : News Agencies

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