Ten years ago, the Mitchell Report rocked Major League Baseball
More than 85 players were implicated in the report about performance-enhancing drug use
In the first three hours after it was posted on MLB.com, the Mitchell Report was downloaded 1.8 million times.
Jose Canseco, whose book Juiced was cited throughout the document, was mentioned 105 times — the most of any player. Then there was Barry Bonds, who was in the midst of indictment on charges of lying about steroids to a federal grand jury. He was mentioned 103 times.
Roger Clemens found himself mentioned in the report 82 times. Former New York Yankees strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee told Mitchell, a former U.S. senator and prosecutor, and his investigators that “during the middle of the 2000 season, Clemens made it clear that he was ready to use steroids again. During the latter part of the regular season, McNamee injected Clemens in the buttocks four to six times with testosterone from a bottle labeled either Sustanon 250 or Deca-Durabolin.”
The seven-time Cy Young Award winner knew that his path to the Hall of Fame may have just gone up in smoke.
“It is very unfair to include Roger’s name in this report,” Clemens’ lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told reporters. “He is left with no meaningful way to combat what he strongly contends are totally false allegations. He has not been charged with anything, he will not be charged with anything and yet he is being tried in the court of public opinion with no recourse. That is totally wrong.”
On Dec. 13, 2007, Major League Baseball had its reckoning. The 20-month investigation into players’ use of steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and other performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) culminated in the 409-page report that identified more than 85 current and former baseball players.
And, to this day, there are those who don’t want to see anyone associated with illegal PEDs or HGH or mentioned in the Mitchell Report inducted into the Hall of Fame. Joe Morgan, the Hall board vice chairman, sent out a letter in November urging Hall voters to keep out steroid users.
Then-President George W. Bush, a former Texas Rangers owner, took time to comment on the document’s findings in the Rose Garden the next day.
“My hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us,” said Bush. “We can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game.
“The players and the owners must take the Mitchell Report seriously. … I’m confident they will.”
Said then-MLB commissioner Bud Selig: “If there are problems, I wanted them revealed. His report is a call to action, and I will act.”
A player from every position, 31 All-Stars, seven MVPs and two Cy Young Award winners were listed in the Mitchell Report.
Rick Ankiel, Paul Byrd, Jason Giambi, Troy Glaus, Jose Guillen, Jerry Hairston Jr., Gary Matthews Jr., Paul Lo Duca, Brian Roberts, Scott Schoeneweis, Gary Sheffield, Mike Stanton and Ron Villone were some of the then-current players named for their use of HGH or hormones.
With punishment from the commissioner looming, Giambi and Frank Thomas were the only players who were known to have cooperated with Mitchell’s investigation. The players union was otherwise uncooperative.
“Many players are named,” said union leader Donald Fehr. “Their reputations have been adversely affected, probably forever, even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been.”
Information was also provided to Mitchell and his team by former New York Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski, who gave up the information as part of his federal plea agreement.
Eric Gagne, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada and former players such as Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive for steroids, Kevin Brown, Lenny Dykstra, Todd Hundley, Wally Joyner, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch, Benito Santiago and Mo Vaughn were also listed in the report.
Drug testing began in baseball four years earlier, and Mitchell noted that many of the instances occurred before 2003. Mitchell connected players to illegal doping in a multitude of ways: users, buyers and the use of media reports and other tactics.
“Those who have illegally used these substances range from players whose major league careers were brief to potential members of the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, wrote. “They include both pitchers and position players, and their backgrounds are as diverse as those of all major league players.”
And there was plenty of blame to go around, Mitchell explained, from the top down. He recommended that an independent body oversee the drug testing program and the test be doled out on a less predictable basis.
“Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades — commissioners, club officials, the players association and players — shares to some extent the responsibility for the Steroids Era,” he said. “There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on.
“The illegal use of performance-enhancing substances poses a serious threat to the integrity of the game,” the report said. “Widespread use by players of such substances unfairly disadvantages the honest athletes who refuse to use them and raises questions about the validity of baseball records.”
Just two hours after the Mitchell Report was posted, Reps. Henry Waxman (D-California) and Tom Davis (R-Virginia) asked Mitchell, Selig and Fehr to testify at a House committee hearing the following week. The congressmen were the leaders of the panel that heard Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Palmeiro testify in March 2005.