MLB Congressional Hearings 2008, George Mitchell, Bud Selig, Donald Fehr Testify
George Mitchell, Bud Selig and Donald Fehr testified before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reviewing Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug problem.
The hearing was held to discuss the findings in the Mitchell Report and MLB’s progress in fighting performance enhancing drugs since the last congressional hearings in 2005.
The most surprising moment came early on when Rep. Henry Waxman said that he and Tom Davis asked the Justice Department to look into whether Tejada lied to investigators during questioning in connection to Palmeiro’s perjury case in 2005 when Tejada denied using or knowing or even hearing a discussion about performance enhancing drugs.
George Mitchell was the first to be questioned. Mitchell was asked about his methods during his investigation and the levels of cooperation he received. Mitchell mostly reiterated what was in his report while declining to answer questions about stimulants and saying he believed Brian McNamee’s statements were true.
Overall, Commissioner, Bud Selig, and Players Association leader, Donald Fehr faced a much more hospitable congress than in 2005. Both were given credit for MLB’s progress since 2005, but still grilled about the current state of the game. The committee said it was most concerned with the recommendations put forth in the Mitchell Report. They asked about blood tests, genetic doping, medical exemptions, independent testing and other issues facing MLB going forward.
Below are some of the major moments from the hearing.
The increase in exemptions for AD-HD medications
Rep. John Tierney asked Mitchell about the increase in exemptions given to MLB players for stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall etc.) prescribed for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or AD-HD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder). In 2006 there were 28 exemptions granted; in 2007 there were more than 100. Mitchell mostly declined to address this issue citing the fact that his report excluded amphetamines.
Congressmen asked Selig why this didn’t set off warning signals to MLB.
Following the hearings, Gary Wadler, chairman of committee that determines the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned-substances list, pointed out the obvious.
“This demands an explanation. There’s something fundamentally wrong them going from 28 to 103… If we had this percentage increase in the general population, it would be on the evening news as a national epidemic. It’s an outrageous number.”
Selig and Fehr accepted some responsibility for the problem
Rep. Elijah Cummings asked Selig and Fehr if they “accept responsibility for this scandal or do you think there was nothing you could do to prevent it?”
Fehr was careful with his response, taking a long pause before saying:
“Did we or did I appreciate the depth of the problem? … The answer is ‘No.’ It’s a failure that we didn’t, and it’s a failure that I didn’t.”
Selig said he agonized over the question personally.
“I personally agonized over this a thousand times over what I could have done differently. And I accept responsibility for everything that happens in our sport… Do I wish we could have reacted quicker? Should we have? One could make the case… All of us have to take responsibility, starting with me.”
Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee
The committee asked Mitchell if he believed McNamee in light of what has happened since his report was released.
“Since our report was issued, Andy Pettitte said Mr. McNamee’s statement about him was true. So that confirmed his testimony.”
Facing similar questions, Mitchell then reiterated the fact that McNamee had “overwhelming incentive to tell the truth” because of the threat of prosecution. Mitchell said he interviewed McNamee three times, including once just before the report was finalized. Mitchell said he provided McNamee an opportunity to rescind or modify his statements to which McNamee declined except for “a couple of minor suggestions.”
Finally, when asked directly by Rep. Waxman if he was comfortable with McNamee’s statements given the denials by Clemens, Mitchell replied simply:
“I believe the statements provided to us were truthful.”
San Francisco Giants Executives Unwilling to Confront Barry Bonds or Greg Anderson
Citing the Mitchell report, the committee wanted to know if Giants GM, Brian Sabean and owner Peter McGowan faced discipline for not confronting Bonds or Anderson about allegations that Anderson was distributing anabolic steroids to players.
Selig said “of course” when asked if Sabean and McGowan should have reported their suspicions to MLB, and wouldn’t rule out punishment. Selig said the matter was “under review.”
Rep. Waxman stated why he believed it was so important for team executives to take the issue more seriously.
“It’s possible that the BALCO scandal could have been averted if Brian Sabean and Peter Magowan acted in a responsible fashion. Instead, they seemed more intent on protecting Bonds.”
Miguel Tejada’s Possible Perjury
Tejada was questioned during the 2005 committee’s investigation into whether Rafael Palmeiro had lied when he now famously pointed his finger and said “I have never used steroids. Period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.” Palmeiro tested positive for an anabolic steroid later that summer and suggested at the time that it may have been caused by a tainted vitamin B12 shot he had got from Tejada. Palmeiro was then investigated for perjury but the government concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that Palmeiro had lied.
According to Waxman:
“Tejada told the committee that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and that he had no knowledge of other players using or even talking about steroids. Well, the Mitchell report, however, directly contradicts key elements of Mr. Tejada’s testimony.”