Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mitchell Report still haunts baseball

Has it really been two years? It seems like yesterday when former senator George Mitchell released his report on steroid use in baseball. The report outed several players as steroid or human growth hormone users, including Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. While Pettitte quickly confirmed the accuracy of the report, Clemens to this day denies using steroids and is reportedly being investigated for allegedly committing perjury when testifying before Congress.

Perhaps it doesn't feel like that long ago because the steroid revelations keep coming. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez admitted to steroid use in February after being outed by Sports Illustrated magazine. Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez was suspended from baseball for 50 games this year for taking a banned substance. Also, keeping steroids in the news is Mark McGwire's decision to return to the game as a hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mitchell's report emphatically stated that steroid use in baseball was widespread. It's hard to know how much has changed since then. Four major leaguers were suspended in 2009 when tests showed the use of banned substances, including Yankees pitcher Sergio Mitre, who was just tended another contract by the team. They all dealt with 50-game bans under the tougher penalties adopted by Major League Baseball and the player's union, a good sign of progress.

But as Mitchell noted in his report, there is no way to test for HGH. That is still true. Have many players simply shifted from steroids to HGH? Mitchell believes they did and it's unlikely much has changed in the two years since he issued his report.

Commissioner Bud Selig said MLB is spending millions to try to develop a reliable HGH test. Hopefully, those efforts will soon be successful and we can truly know if the sport has really cleaned up or if players have just found another way to hide their cheating.

Thanks to the US Department of State via Wikipedia for the photo.

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