Mitchell defends steroids report


George Mitchell insisted naming names was the right decision and said he was prepared for Roger Clemens and others to deny they used performance-enhancing drugs.

"We made every effort to establish the truthfulness of the information that we received," baseball's steroids investigator said Friday during a half-hour interview at his law office. "Several of the witnesses were interviewed in the presence of federal law enforcement agents who informed the witnesses that if they made false statements they would subject themselves to possible criminal jeopardy. So there was very strong incentives to tell the truth."

A day after Mitchell issued a searing report that implicated Clemens, seven former MVPs and more than 80 players in all, President Bush said he's been "troubled by the steroid allegations."

Mitchell said he included in his report nearly all those who were implicated in his investigation. Players largely declined to interview with Mitchell.

"There were two players whose names I did not publish because the allegations occurred after the time that they had left baseball," he said.

The 74-year-old former Senate majority leader, hired by baseball commissioner Bud Selig in March 2006, wouldn't put a precise figure on how many major leaguers used performance-enhancing drugs.

"It is my judgment that the 5-7 percent that tested positive in the 2003 anonymous survey testing understated the amount of use, but I don't think it reaches a majority. I think it is a minority, albeit a significant minority," he said. "That's why I think that the majority of players who don't use such substances are principal victims of what has occurred. They follow the rules. They obey the law and they are placed in a position where they have to make the awful choice between either becoming illegal users themselves or being put at a competitive disadvantage."

Although he received cooperation from the Justice Department, Mitchell said he did not obtain evidence from the Albany, N.Y., district attorney, who has been investigating a drug ring that sold to players. He also said he never got complete copies of sworn statements by IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky that implicated players but were released publicly with the names blacked out.

Because it was a private inquiry, Mitchell said he did not think a standard of evidence was necessary.

"It is not a judicial proceeding. It is not a trial," he said. "But it doesn't make any difference what standard or what court you're in: direct, personal, eyewitness testimony, it is the principal form of evidence in most proceedings."

Much of his evidence came from former Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski and former Yankees strength coach Brian McNamee, who said he personally saw use by Clemens and Andy Pettitte.

Clemens' lawyer vehemently denied the accusations against the seven-time Cy Young Award winner, whose Hall of Fame chances might have been damaged by Mitchell's report. Pettitte's agent, Randy Hendricks, has advised his client not to comment because he is an active player.

Although Radomski didn't see players inject drugs, his records and story were compelling to Mitchell.

"If someone makes one purchase and says he didn't use it, that's one thing," Mitchell said. "If someone makes three, four, five, six, seven purchases over a period of several months or years, it obviously raises the question: If you weren't using it, why were you continuing to buy it?"

Sitting in a conference room, a plant behind his chair to add a scenic background, Mitchell said his next big task would be to start treatment for prostate cancer, an illness he made public in August. He said he was told his prognosis is good.

Although he thinks drug testing is essential in baseball, he didn't agree that congressional representatives, judges and the president and vice president should set an example by also submitting to tests. "I don't think one can make a blanket statement that all people should be tested," he said. "It obviously requires a case-by-case analysis."

Mitchell is a director of the Boston Red Sox and some criticized him during the probe for having a conflict of interest. When the report was issued Thursday and singled out present and former Yankees stars such as Pettitte, Clemens and Chuck Knoblauch, Mitchell's role with the Red Sox came under renewed focus.

No major Red Sox were cited.

However, Mitchell did include e-mails from Boston officials speculating over which players were on steroids among those the team contemplated acquiring.

"We received no such documents from the Yankees," he said. "Now surely no one would argue that I was biased in favor of the Yankees because I published this about the Red Sox."

Mitchell said baseball's problem seems to have shifted from steroids to human growth hormone, for which there is no reliable test. He predicted a different substance will replace HGH as the drug of choice.

"At this precise moment, somewhere in the world, in China, in Mexico, or somewhere in the United States, someone is working to develop another drug that avoids detection, that accomplishes the purpose or at least is claimed to accomplish the purpose," he said.

He was forceful when he discussed how he envisioned his report would have an audience beyond baseball and its fans. He worried about the example being set by the pros.

"Young kids don't just look up to baseball players. They look up to all professional athletes," he said. "That's an alarming and dangerous thing in our society. That should cause concern among not just baseball fans, but all Americans."

President Bush, a former Texas Rangers owner, was among the many baseball fans who commented on Mitchell's findings.

"My hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us," he said. "Steroids have sullied the game."

"The players and the owners must take the Mitchell Report seriously," Bush said. "I'm confident they will."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't rule out discipline for active players cited by Mitchell, but that process likely will go into next year. It is unlikely players will be penalized for conduct before September 2002, when the drug agreement between the union and management went into force.

Several congressmen have called for new hearings, but the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee session at first set for Tuesday was pushed back until Jan. 15.

Cleveland pitcher Paul rd, among the players tied to HGH in media reports of the Albany investigation, is scheduled to meet with baseball officials Monday.

Mitchell said baseball should draw a lesson from the peace accord he brokered in Northern Ireland.

"You have to turn the page and look forward," he said. "In some circumstances, you can benefit from turning away and looking to the future, and I think this is one of them. And I hope that out of this will come the perspective that this is a possible turning point for baseball, as the commissioner said, a call to action. And, hopefully, there will be a response."

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