Dept. of Investigation recommended
Mitchell Report calls for independence, flexibility in testing
NEW YORK -- Former Sen. George Mitchell, seeking to strengthen Major League Baseball's Joint Drug and Treatment Policy, offered a bevy of recommendations in his much-heralded report, which was released to the public on Thursday.Mitchell, in warning that "even the best drug testing program, by itself, [is not] sufficient," offered concrete plans to shore up investigation, educational programs and existing testing regimens, as a way of moving the policy forward. "All of them I embrace," Commissioner Bud Selig said on Thursday. "Those recommendations that I can implement independently, I will do so immediately. There are other recommendations that are subject to collective bargaining. I'm also committed to these recommendations. And we will be reaching out to Don Fehr and the Players Association in accepting them and begin a positive dialogue on these matters." Perhaps, though, the most significant recommendation made by Mitchell is for Selig to establish a department of investigations "led by a senior executive who reports directly to the president of Major League Baseball [Bob DuPuy]," Mitchell wrote on page 288 of his report. "Ideally this senior executive should have experience as a senior leader in law enforcement, with the highest credibility among state and federal law enforcement officials." This recommendation is among 13 involving security and education that don't have to be collectively bargained with the union and would take the onus off the Labor Relations Department and in-house security for having to investigate cases that involve players using performance-enhancing drugs, Mitchell said. The other six involve the regulation and implementation of the testing program, which would have to be negotiated by re-opening the Basic Agreement, which runs through the 2011 season. This was accomplished twice during the 2003-06 agreement and both times punitive measures, the incidence of drug testing -- in and out of season -- and the type of drugs on the banned list were increased. As for as a department of investigations is concerned, Mitchell opined in the report that many of the investigations done by Labor Relations "have not been aggressive or thorough." He also said that MLB's security department, which has been utilized in some of these investigations, has been placed in a compromised position because its "primary function" is to "provide security for the players and the playing environment. "That also places security officials in a difficult situation when they are asked to investigate the very persons they are responsible for protecting," he said.
It was this combination of baseball authorities that recently investigated the involvement of seven current players whose names were floated in the Albany, N.Y., district attorney's investigation of the procurement of performance-enhancing drugs through clinics in the South and pharmacies that do business on the Internet. This past season, the Labor Relations Department also investigated and interviewed Jason Giambi, after USA Today published his comments about his own use of steroids.Creating this new department and hiring the personnel will take a sizeable financial commitment from the Commissioner's Office and MLB's 30 owners. Rich Levin, Selig's spokesman, reiterated on Friday that the Commissioner is willing to do it. "As he said, he's embracing all of the Senator's recommendations," Levin said about Selig. Mitchell further recommended that baseball do some simple things like run background checks on all clubhouse personnel, randomly drug test them, log in all packages sent to players at Major League ballparks, and randomly test top prospects in the First-Year Player Draft as an adjunct to the Minor League Drug and Treatment Policy, which was unilaterally implemented in 2001 and includes testing for so-called "drugs of abuse" like marijuana, alcohol and cocaine. As far as upgrades to the testing program goes, Mitchell said that the current penalties for the use of performance enhancing drugs -- 50 games for the first positive test, 100 for the second and a lifetime ban for the third with the right to apply for reinstatement after two years -- was the toughest in all organized professional sports. But it should be enhanced by having it run independently to avoid the perception of a conflict. "Whatever form they [the owners and union] choose, the independent program administrator should hold exclusive authority over all aspects of the formulation and administration of the program," Mitchell wrote. It should be more transparent, providing, "the public with aggregate data that demonstrates the work of the program and the results achieved by it [but that does not reveal or permit the determination of individual identities]." There should be more "adequate year-round, unannounced testing," which was placed into the program on a limited basis when it was revised for the second time prior to the 2006 season. The program also should be flexible enough to incorporate new and the best practices of testing as they develop, thus modifying it without having to re-open the agreement to collective bargaining each time a significant change needs to be implemented. "This may involve modification of the program as enhanced techniques, new tests and best practices evolve," Mitchell wrote. In conclusion, Mitchell is recommending that MLB and its union take a more holistic approach to its drug policy. "One agency head has concluded that drug testing 'barely scratches the surface,'" Mitchell wrote. "Accordingly, in addition to a vigilant drug-testing program, the Commissioner's Office must also 'focus ... on building detection capability for serious non-analytical anti-doping violations.' "These recommendations are designed to work in combination with one another to create a new environment, one that is more aggressive in deterring the use of performance-enhancing substances."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.