Mitchell urges players to cooperate in steroids inquiry

Updated: February 26, 2007, 3:38 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Barry Bonds' lawyer said Monday that Bonds cannot cooperate with Major League Baseball's steroid investigation as long as he remains the focus of a possible perjury indictment.

Union will advise players on probe
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The players' association will offer advice but said it's the choice of each individual whether to cooperate with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

"We haven't made any comment about the Mitchell investigation specifically," union head Donald Fehr said Monday. "What you should expect, however, is that any time any player has an issue with that or something arises, then we will give them whatever our best advice is under the circumstances, and then players make their individual decisions."

Mitchell, hired by commissioner Bud Selig just before the start of the 2006 season, warned baseball owners in January that a lack of cooperation with his investigation into steroid use will "significantly increase" the chances of government involvement.

Fehr, starting his annual spring training tour by meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks, said Mitchell's comments were unnecessary and that important individual rights are involved.

"I don't think there's anything productive for us to engage in a war," Fehr said. "We spend a lot of time in this country lately with lawyers trying to get public relations advantage on things. I'm not sure that when you're dealing with rights which may be in some sense fairly technical and legal that you ought to be doing that."

On another drug-related issue, Fehr said the union will "take a hard look" at any verified test to detect human growth hormone. That drug cannot be detected by a urine test, and a blood test is in its early stages of use.

"So far as I know it hasn't been peer reviewed by anybody," he said. "Nobody knows the details. We'll take a hard look at whatever it becomes when and if it becomes."

-- The Associated Press

Michael Rains said he would like to have Bonds cooperate with George Mitchell, Major League Baseball's lead investigator, but only if Bonds isn't in danger of being indicted.

Rains told ESPN.com's Mike Fish that he contacted Kevin Ryan, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco, to see if Bonds is still the subject of a federal investigation after Trevor Graham was indicted in the BALCO case.

"I told them that I would like to have Barry give an interview to Mitchell and his people, but I am not going to do it, Mr. Ryan, unless you tell me you're done with it. And if you won't even tell me one way or the other, then you leave me no alternative," Rains told ESPN.com.

Rains said he had hoped the Graham indictment was the last of the BALCO case, but Ryan replied in a letter: "We can't confirm or deny that we are conducting any proceedings related to Mr. Bonds."

A letter urging the cooperation of Bonds and other players tied to the BALCO scandal was sent Feb. 1 by Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader who is leading baseball's steroids inquiry. The letter, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday on it Web site, was accompanied by medical waiver forms that, if signed, would allow investigators to view Bonds' and other players medical records.

Members of Congress have told Mitchell they might intervene if baseball's own investigation is hampered by lack of player cooperation.

Rains told ESPN.com that he hasn't heard back from Mitchell.

"My letter went out two weeks ago," Rains said. "So I have not heard back from him. I would think as a lawyer and as a very smart lawyer that Mr. Mitchell would understand the position I take. And I think he would have to appreciate the fact that I have supported my position with documentation," Rains said.

Bonds reportedly told the BALCO grand jury he thought his personal trainer, Greg Anderson, had given him flaxseed oil and arthritic balm, rather than the BALCO steroids known as "The Clear" and "The Cream." A federal grand jury is investigating him for possible perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

The Chronicle published stories in 2004 that reported Bonds and former New York Yankees slugger Gary Sheffield testified they didn't knowingly take the drugs.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig ordered baseball's investigation in March 2006.

While he has never been charged, suspicion continues to dog Bonds, who will enter the season 22 home runs short of breaking Hank Aaron's career record of 755.

Rains told ESPN.com that he wouldn't be doing his job if he let Bonds cooperate while there was a chance he could be indicted in another case.

"I want them to leave Barry alone for the first time in a half of decade. That is all I want. But I can't get them to even tell me whether they're continuing to screw with him when I know damn well they are," Rains said.

Mike Fish is an investigative reporter for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.