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Thursday, March 30, 2006

ESPN Gets It Right - MLB Commissioner Selig Pulls The Trigger: Established Steriod Use Investigation Headed By George Mitchell

Yesterday, I accused ESPN of trying to push the Commissioner of Major League Baseball to take action on the basis of what I contend is a poorly presented book claiming that one player -- Barry Bonds -- used steroids.

Well, unlike the last time, ESPN did get this right. Check out the news below and with a click to the link that is the title of this post.

03/30/2006 2:00 PM ET
Selig announces steroid investigation
Former Sen. George Mitchell named to head probe into past drug use
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Commissioner Bud Selig has named former Sen. George Mitchell to head a full-scale investigation into the past use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
The announcement came at a press conference at the Commissioner's office on Thursday.

The probe was spurred by recent allegations made in a book that targets San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, among a number of other former Major Leaguers.

The book, entitled "Game of Shadows," alleges that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs beginning in 1998 for a five-year period, which includes 2001, when he hit 73 home runs to set a single-season record.

Bonds has been the focal point of controversy since leaked grand jury testimony during the 2004-2005 offseason linked him to steroid use. Bonds will resume his chase of the all-time career homer record when the Giants open their season against the Padres in San Diego on Monday. Bonds, at 708, is six homers in arrears of Babe Ruth and 47 behind Hank Aaron, the all-time leader with 755.

All the players involved will be allowed to play while the probe is under way.

MLB did not have random testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs prior to 2003, though Selig circulated memos during the 1990s stating that the use of those drugs by players was strictly prohibited and could be cause for discipline. The players association would not collectively bargain the issue at the time.

Don Fehr, the executive director of the union, said on Monday that under those terms, players could only be tested and penalized when MLB officials had "just cause" to believe a Major Leaguer was doing such drugs. MLB never announced player penalties then and have not reported that either Bonds, Giambi or Sheffield have failed a drug test since the twice re-written MLB drug policy went into effect four years ago.

What discipline Selig can hand out after the investigation is complete is a matter of conjecture. The union has a representational obligation to any of the players involved, Fehr said.

"I hope nobody is making judgments about the inquiry before it's done," said Fehr, who met with Bonds at his Scottsdale Stadium locker for 20 minutes on Monday after the union's annual spring session with the Giants players. "Bud will make whatever decision Bud makes and we'll go from there."

The book, which was written by two San Francisco Chronicle reporters who covered the federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO), says Bonds used a host of steroid-based drugs to improve his strength, play and recovery time from injuries.

The authors say Sheffield and Giambi were also extensive steroid users and link the pair to Bonds and his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, who was indicted in the BALCO case, pled guilty to reduced charges, and was sentenced to jail time. Victor Conte, the president of the now-defunct company, also pled to lesser charges and served a four-month prison sentence. In a bit of ironic timing, Conte was being released Thursday.

Earlier this month, after excerpts of the book were published in Sports Illustrated, Selig said he would review all the pertinent information pertaining to Bonds' alleged steroid use and reserve comment about it. Selig has been under increased pressure from Congressional leaders and the media to open an investigation into just what happened in the Major Leagues during the era that began in 1998 when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased and broke Roger Maris' single-season, 37-year-old home run record of 61.

Bonds missed all but 14 games of the 2005 season after having surgery three times on his right knee. Bonds returned on Sept. 12 and hit five homers in his first 36 at-bats.

He has hit four more this spring in 16 at-bats while batting .625. Though Bonds has not played since Friday because of inflammation in his left elbow, he is expected to be back in the lineup on Thursday night when the Giants play an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels at San Francisco's newly renamed AT&T Park.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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