On Tuesday February 15, the United States House of Representatives held a Congressional hearing on the Mitchell Report which detailed steroid use and performance enhancing drug use in professional baseball. First, Senator Mitchell testified on his baseball report which he and his staff helped put together. The 409 page document had contained player allegations of steroid use and the increasing problem of drug use in the game of baseball. The most significant players named in the report were Roger Clemens, Andy Petitte, Miguel Tejada and Barry Bonds. The trainers who helped Mitchell most with his report were baseball trainers Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski.
After Senator Mitchell testified, Major League Baseball player's association president and union leader Donald Fehr testified in front of Congress together with baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
Both men gave their statements on the position of the Mitchell Report. Commissioner Selig seemed to be pleased with the report while Donald Fehr stated his discontent and how players were angry at the report. Fehr stated his biggest gripe with the report to be the fact that the players named in the report were not given advanced warning of what was contained in the report. Fehr stated that players named in the report should have been sent a copy of what was going to be written about them and they should have been a given a fair chance to represent themselves and a chance to clear their names before the report came out.
The issue of gene doping also came up in the Congressional hearings. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliablue had stated three years ago according to Congress, that gene doping was an enormous problem that could arise in the future. When the issue of gene doping was raised to Donald Fehr and Bud Selig, they seemed to be unaware of the problem, although Commissioner Selig managed to say that they are looking into the problem and that drug testing is "an evolutionary process."
Another big issue which Congress repeatedly asked Donald Fehr was about the player's association "wall of silence." Fehr responded to this by stating that there was no due process for players and that if they spoke to investigators from the Mitchell Report and that players knew that information given to investigators could jeopardize their job security. The issue of possible criminal charges and jail time was also brought up by player's association lawyers as they told players not to talk to investigators about their own personal or fellow player steroid or performance enhancing use.
A large group of Congressmen were involved in the hearing including Representatives John Tierney (MA), Christopher Shays (CT), Diane Watson (CA), Stephen Lynch (MA), John Yarmuth (KN), Patrick McHenry (NC), Eleanor Norton (District of Columbia) and Danny Davis (IL). Representative Henry Waxman from California chaired the Congressional hearing.
A further issue brought up by Congress was the fact that Olympic athletes are held to a higher standing of testing. Congress asked Fehr why baseball players are not held to that same Olympic standard. Fehr responded by stating that Olympic players were not represented by a union and have no rights when it comes to drug testing.
Representative Watson brought up the issue of off-season testing which didn't start until the 2007 off-season. When Watson asked about Fehr and Selig's views on off-season testing, Selig replied, "We need more testing, year round," There's no question that more testing and more off season testing would be very helpful." For this same question, Fehr did agree that there should be off-season testing but also maintained the position that his job is to represent the players and such an issue should be brought up in a labor bargaining agreement.
The issue of re-opening the labor contract between Major league baseball and the players association was something that Fehr had great discontent with, stating that a bargaining agreement was reached in good faith and that the baseball agreement negotiated was not supposed to end until the 2011 season. Congress pushed strongly that the bargaining agreement should be re-opened to fix the drug problem in baseball.
One further point that Commissioner Selig and Senator Mitchell did agree on with Congress that while steroid use is on the decline, HGH is on the rise among baseball player use.
Testing was brought up by Commissioner Selig as a problem in baseball because there is no test for HGH in either blood or union. Congressman Lynch asked Commissioner Selig if he would be open to testing all current players and storing their urine. Selig responded by saying that the idea "was not practical." Fehr responded by saying that storing urine samples has problems with fairness and brought up the example of Lance Armstrong's allegations in Olympics as being faulty.
Throughout the Congressional hearing, Bud Selig stated the need for baseball to do more in terms of drug testing. Congress did commend baseball for arriving at a tougher drug testing policy in 2005. Selig stated, "This is an evolutionary process and we cannot rest during this process."
Representative McHenry asked Fehr why the player's association opposed mandatory random drug testing, to which Fehr replied that he believed you need a reasonable cause of drug use in order to invade someone's privacy with a blood or urine test.
Selig also responded to the Mitchell report stating that he didn't want anyone to believe that Major League Baseball had something to hide.
Congresswoman Norton brought up the issue of baseball adopting the standards of the U.S. anti-doping agency so that drug testing would be completely independent. Donald Fehr was against such an idea because he stated it would be unfair to the player's association. Commissioner Selig stated that he would be open and would look into the idea.
Bud Selig also told Congress about his faith in a new baseball department that will only deal with enforcing and implementing baseball's drug policies. Selig also stated that this new department will investigate any and all performance enhancing use in baseball.
Throughout the Congressional hearing, Congressmen and women echoed the concern on kids and youth in America who look up to professional baseball and can be influenced by drug use. Both Fehr and Selig stated that they understood this concern and that by working to amend drug policies, they are working towards accomplishing this goal.