|Selig, Fehr pressed by Congress on 'roids; Justice Dept. asked to investigate Tejada|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 15 January 2008 08:33|
At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in the same, wood-paneled room where Selig, Fehr, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others testified three years ago, congressmen mixed criticism of baseball and its players with praise for progress on steroids.
That 2005 hearing was referenced right away when panel chairman Henry Waxman opened the proceedings by calling on the Justice Department to look into whether former AL MVP Miguel Tejada lied to committee staffers when questioned in connection to Palmeiro's perjury case.
Waxman then turned the focus to former Senate majority leader George Mitchell's report on baseball's steroids era.
``The illegal use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was pervasive for more than a decade, Major League Baseball was slow and ineffective in responding to the scandal, and the use of human growth hormone has been rising,'' said committee chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat.
``The Mitchell Report also makes it clear that everyone in baseball is responsible: the owners, the commissioner, the union and the players.''
After Mitchell's two-hour appearance, Selig and Fehr went before the panel. Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings said to Selig and Fehr: ``This scandal happened under your watch. I want that to sink in. It did. Do you accept responsibility for this scandal or do you think there was nothing you could do to prevent it?''
Fehr paused for several seconds.
``Did we or did I appreciate the depth of the problem? ... The answer is `No,''' Fehr replied. ``It's a failure that we didn't and it's a failure that I didn't.''
Selig then followed, starting by saying he's agonized over the question.
``Do I wish we could have reacted quicker? Should we have? One could make the case,'' the commissioner said. ``All of us have to take responsibility, starting with me.''
In his opening statement, Selig vowed to develop a program ``to require top prospects for the major league draft to submit to drug testing before the (amateur) draft.'' He also reiterated his willingness to support use of a test for human growth hormone ``when a valid, commercially available and practical test for HGH becomes reality, regardless of whether the test is based on blood or urine.''
Fehr, in turn, said the union has agreed to ``allow players to be suspended for HGH use based on evidence other than a positive test, a so-called `non-analytical' finding.''
He and Selig said they met in December to discuss the Mitchell Report's investigations and plan to meet again.
``I hope we have all of this completed before spring training,'' Selig said.
One representative questioned all three witnesses about a potential loophole in baseball's drug policy, which was toughened in the aftermath of the 2005 congressional hearing. Penalties were increased and amphetamines were banned.
Massachusetts Democrat John Tierney said baseball gave over 100 therapeutic-use exemptions to players for attention deficit disorder last year, up from 28 in 2006. The exemptions enabled players to use stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall.
Earlier, the mood was captured succinctly by Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays, who began his questioning time by noting, ``This is almost surreal to me.''
It took more than 1 1/2 hours for the first mention of Roger Clemens, the star pitcher who figures prominently in the Mitchell Report and is scheduled to testify before the committee on Feb. 13, along with his former trainer, Brian McNamee. It was McNamee who told Mitchell that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, charges Clemens repeatedly has denied.
``You continue to feel comfortable with Mr. McNamee's credibility?'' Waxman asked.
``We believe that the statements provided to us were truthful,'' Mitchell said.
Mitchell was asked why he did not address amphetamine use in his report (``They were outside the mandate of our investigation''); what level of help he received from the union (``As I said in my report, the players' association was largely uncooperative''); and why he did not agree to a request by The Associated Press to turn over evidence he gathered (``The responsibility for the disclosure of those documents rests with those who are the possessors and owners of the documents.'' Mitchell said there were 115,000 pages.
Said ranking minority member Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who chaired the 2005 hearing: ``Our work here is definitely not done. ... But as a panelist at our last baseball hearing famously said, 'We're not here to talk about the past.' ... Going forward, what will the leaders of baseball do to implement the recommendations outlined in this report?''
Echoing Davis' sentiment, Mitchell told the lawmakers, ``Being chained to the past is not helpful. Baseball does not need and cannot afford to engage in a never-ending search for the name of every player who ever used performance-enhancing substances.''
His report connected more than 80 players to allegations about performance-enhancing drugs.
At the 2005 hearing, Palmeiro said under oath, ``I have never used steroids, period.'' He was suspended by baseball later that year after testing positive for a steroid.
When the committee looked into whether Palmeiro should face perjury or other charges, it spoke to Tejada, who at the time was a Baltimore Orioles teammate of Palmeiro's. Palmeiro said his positive test must have resulted from a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.
In Mitchell's report, Adam Piatt, Tejada's former Oakland teammate, said he provided Tejada with steroids and HGH in 2003. Mitchell also included copies of checks allegedly written by Tejada to Piatt in March 2003 for $3,100 and $3,200.
Davis and Waxman sent a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Michael Mukasey asking him to investigate. The letter contains excerpts from the Aug. 26, 2005, interview of Tejada at a hotel in Baltimore.
``Has there been discussion among other players about steroids?'' a committee staffer asked, according to the letter.
``No, I never heard,'' Tejada replied.
``You never knew of any other player using steroids?'' Tejada was asked.
``No,'' he replied.
``Have you ever taken a steroid before?'' he was asked at another point.
``No,'' he said.
Tejada's agent, Fern Cuza, didn't respond to a telephone message or e-mail. The Orioles' owner, Peter Angelos, attended the hearing and said he did not know until Tuesday that Tejada spoke to the committee.