Sources: Players, owners to share blame in Mitchell report

Updated: December 13, 2007, 9:25 AM ET
By T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada | ESPN.com

Major League Baseball and the Players Association share the blame for tolerating a widespread culture of drug abuse, George Mitchell's report on doping in baseball says, according to two lawyers who said they are familiar with the report.

Both lawyers told ESPN that the report assigns blame for the rise of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball "from top to bottom," and recommends that MLB and the union agree to outsource their drug testing program to an independent agency.

The sources would not reveal the names of players included in the report, but confirmed that as many as 80 are listed. One lawyer expected several "very, very high-level names" to be exposed, although Mitchell is frank in the report about how difficult it was to get information regarding the extent of player use.

"He admits that he can only go back so far because of the lack of cooperation, but says it's more important to move ahead," one lawyer said.

Mitchell plans to release his report at 2 p.m. ET Thursday at a news conference in New York City.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig will hold his own news conference 2½ hours later.

"I haven't seen the report yet, but I'm proud I did it," Selig said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "People can say Bud was just trying to cover his butt or take care of his legacy or whatever. I say [expletive] it. This needed to be done, and now we've done it. I'm just happy it will be out there and we can move on. I'm proud of it."

While the report recognizes that Selig met fierce resistance from the union when he tried to implement tougher testing during recent years, the report says that all of baseball should have seen the warning signs that were evident years ago.

Baseball and its players reached an agreement in September 2002 to test for steroids. In 2005, a new, stricter policy was implemented. Baseball and the players agreed to ban HGH in 2005, although there is no reliable test to detect the drug.

Sources said yesterday that MLBPA officials were angered that Mitchell chose not to share the report with them, but that Mitchell felt he had no obligation to the union after they fought his efforts to interview players and obtain some medical records.

Mitchell's criticisms about the current testing procedures are similar to those baseball has dismissed from other critics in the past, such as calls for more frequent testing and greater transparency in the program.

"They aren't going to like it," one lawyer said.

When Selig announced Mitchell's investigation on March 30, 2006, he said Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, was free to pursue his investigation wherever it led. He did not say, however, whether he would abide by all of the report's recommendations.

Besides either appointing an independent administrator or hiring an outside agency to run the program (MLB currently administers the program in conjunction with the Players Association), baseball should:

• Improve to "state-of-the-art" testing, including additional year-round tests with fewer opportunities for players to escape detection.

• Allow the testing administrator to actively investigate "non-analytical positives," meaning information that can show a player violated the doping policy in the absence of a positive urine test. Jay Gibbons and Jose Guillen, for example, were recently suspended after MLB received information from law enforcement sources documenting that the players had received banned drugs. Neither failed a drug test.

• Improve player education about performance-enhancing drugs.

• Allow greater transparency in the program, such as naming the drugs that players test positive for. Some players try to dodge responsibility for positive tests by saying they unwittingly took a tainted diet supplement. Certain drugs could not possibly have come from supplements, but because baseball doesn't name the substances it discovers, the press and public can't determine whether the player is telling the truth.

MLB officials did not return numerous calls seeking comment on Wednesday.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, sent an e-mail to owners and team presidents in advance of the report with instructions how to respond to media inquiries.

"We look forward to carefully reading the results of Sen. Mitchell's investigation,'' the recommended response said, according to the AP.

"Protecting the integrity of our game is vital, and we intend to study his findings and recommendations, and will not comment until we have done so.''

Mark Fainaru-Wada, co-author of "Game of Shadows," and T. J. Quinn are reporters for ESPN. Fainaru-Wada can be reached at markfwespn@gmail.com. Quinn can be reached at tjquinn31@yahoo.com.

T.J. Quinn joined ESPN in November 2007 as an investigative reporter for ESPN's Enterprise Unit, which is charged with developing long-form, investigative features to be presented across multiple platforms.