Report: Committee chair Waxman holding '05 steroid testimony to fire

6/9/2008 - MLB

Henry Waxman, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, is disputing the validity of testimony given by MLB commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr regarding drug testing during a March 2005 hearing, The New York Times has reported.

Waxman has grown skeptical of statistics provided by Selig and Fehr that showed a significant downward trend of positive tests results from 2003 to 2004, the report said.

"It's clear that some of the information Major League Baseball and the players union gave the committee in 2005 was inaccurate," Waxman said in a written statement. "It isn't clear whether this was intentional or just reflects confusion over the testing program for 2003 and 2004. In any case, the misinformation is unacceptable."

The issue centers on the fact MLB had suspended drug testing for much of the 2004 season in response to the federal government's investigation of BALCO, The Times said. Selig and Fehr failed to disclose this in their testimony, which did reveal the number of failed drug tests processed in 2003 was about 100 but was reduced to about 12 the next year.

"In 2004, each player was tested on an unannounced, identified basis for the unlawful use of steroids," Fehr said in written testimony to the committee, according to The Times. "No player knew when he was going to be tested."

The information from 2003-04 came to light in former Sen. George Mitchell's report of December 2007 in a section titled "Allegations of Advance Notice of Tests," nearly 300 pages into the 409-page report.

The Mitchell report disclosed that the anonymity of the drug-testing program required by MLB's collective bargaining agreement had fallen into doubt after federal agents raided two companies involved in BALCO survey testing, resulting in the temporary shutdown of baseball's testing.

"In the course of these searches, the agents seized data from which they believed they could determine the identities of the major league players who had tested positive during the anonymous survey testing," the Mitchell report states on Page 281.

Further, it says: "Ultimately, the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association agreed to a moratorium on 2004 drug testing. While the exact date and length of this moratorium is uncertain, and the relevant 2004 testing records have been destroyed, [Deputy commissioner Rob] Manfred stated that the moratorium commenced very early in the season, prior to the testing of any significant number of players."

The suspension of the program "lasted for a short period," according to Manfred, the Mitchell report says.

Waxman's concerns come less than three weeks after the MLB and its players implemented a new, more regimented drug-testing program and nearly four months after his committee held hearings in which Roger Clemens and his former personal trainer Brian McNamee testified about performance-enhancing drugs and allegations by McNamee of their use by Clemens.

Baseball players approved the toughened drug agreement on May 23.

The sides announced the agreement April 11 and owners ratified it on May 14.

The deal increased the frequency of tests and the authority of the testing program's independent administrator, among the recommendations made in Mitchell's report.

The new rules -- which mark the third major overhaul since the joint drug program began in 2002 -- went into force immediately upon ratification.

Looking for clarification and answers, Waxman's staff intends to send letters of inquiry to Selig and Fehr.

Manfred, who also testified during the March 17, 2005 hearing, refuted Waxman's contention that the 2005 testimony was invalid.

"The testimony of Major League Baseball officials was completely accurate, and we are happy to address any concerns that Congressman Waxman may have," Manfred said, according to The Times.

Michael Weiner, the union's general counsel, further backed the baseball officials' testimony.

"Don's statements at the March 2005 hearing were accurate," Weiner said regarding Fehr, according to the report. "If Congressman Waxman has any questions, we would be happy to respond."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.