Column (Justin DiBiase): Failure and misdirection known as The Mitchell Report

Justin Dibiase

Dec. 13, 2007, was an important date for baseball fans across the globe. On that day, former Sen. George Mitchell published his “Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball.” As fans sat in front of their computers and TV, there was only one thing that they really wanted from Mitchell’s 409 page report: names. We wanted to hear who did what and how did they acquire it. I originally thought the report would be positive for baseball in the sense that baseball would now have a blueprint for a way to stop this problem. It has been one full month since the report’s publishing, and it was completely useless and a waste of time and money.

The primary objective of the report was to investigate the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. After the 409 pages of this giant stain of a report, Mitchell concluded with five key points:

1. Major League Baseball’s 2002 response to steroid use resulted in players switching from detectable steroids to undetectable human growth hormone.

2. The use of performance-enhancing substances by players is legally and ethically “wrong.”

3. While players that use illegal substances are responsible for their actions, the responsibility is shared by the entire baseball community for failing to recognize the problem sooner.

4. An exhaustive investigation attempting to identify every player that has used illegal substances would not be beneficial.

5. Major League Baseball should adopt the recommendations of the report as a first step in eliminating the use of illegal substances.

At first glance, these five conclusions seem valid. However, the first four statements were so blatantly obvious that it is almost comical that these were considered “findings.” There honestly was no need for an investigative report from a high-ranking official to know that HGH is now all the rage among ballplayers and that these substances are legally and ethically “wrong.” The only conclusion of significant importance is the recommendations for eliminating the use of illegal substances.

There were a total of three recommendations suggested in the report. The first recommendation called MLB to “improve their capability to investigate the use of performance-enhancing drugs, above and beyond the current urine-testing program. Additionally, Major League Baseball should improve their methods of barring the drugs from the clubhouse.” Hmm. So it took the $20 million invested in the report to suggest that MLB should improve its testing policy? After recommendations two and three consisted of suggestions about substance education for players and concerns over standards set at meetings between the Players’ Association and club owners, we are left with only one meaningful thing in this thick stack of papers: names.

Eighty-eight names to be exact. Many of the players mentioned in the report have openly admitted to using the drugs, yet several have not. Roger Clemens denies ever using illegal substances and continues to stand pat on his statements. There is no physical evidence linking “The Rocket” to any of these claims; so why should he be looked at as a cheater?

The problem with the individuality of the report is that it only names a small fraction of players involved in the doping scandal. While Brian Roberts and Benito Santiago are looked down upon, several former users sit home, thanking God for having mercy on them.

The general concern of America in the steroids saga is far from well-intentioned. Fans are upset over the use of performance enhancers because their game is losing its sanctity. They are too concerned over the validity of the record books to even know that steroid users die significantly younger than the average person. As a fan of professional wrestling, I have seen many men who used steroids die before even hitting middle-age, often times leaving a family behind.

The only piece of data worth reading in the entire Mitchell Report goes entirely unnoticed: the statistic that approximately 8 percent of high school senior boys used androstenedione in the year 2001, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. So instead of pointing fingers at past users and professional athletes, why isn’t there a serious effort to educate young men and women about the dangers of these performance enhancing drugs?

The Mitchell Report was largely pointless, and Commissioner Bud Selig can be blamed for allocating money for this project. How is Selig punished by owners for this poor decision-making? Well, Selig was awarded a three-year extension as baseball’s commissioner. Go figure.

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Justin DiBiase is a junior civil engineer from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]