Going Nowhere?

Baseball's internal steroid probe may be little more than hype
September 03, 2006

It has been fivemonths since commissioner Bud Selig empowered former Maine senator GeorgeMitchell and his small army of lawyers to follow baseball's drug trail"wherever the evidence may lead." The investigation sounded grandiose:no deadlines, no boundaries, no secrets. It may be time to lower expectations.When it comes to uncovering truths about the Steroid Era, Mitchell & Co.appear less successful than federal investigators and journalists havebeen.

Lacking subpoenapower, full cooperation of the players and access to anyone involved in theBarry Bonds grand jury proceedings until the case is completed, Mitchell'sinvestigation has focused almost entirely on club officials. Its lawyers havenearly concluded interviews with nonplayers from all 30 clubs, includingG.M.'s, trainers, managers and coaches. (They interviewed the Yankees' stafflast week, for instance, and were to interview the clubhouse manager onTuesday.) According to three people with clubs who have been questioned, thoseinterviews lacked specifics.

"They askedreal generic questions," one team official said. "'Do you think we cankeep steroids out of baseball?' 'Did you ever see steroids?' They don't havevery much, I can tell you that." One coach who has playing ties tosuspected steroid users wasn't even interviewed, while fellow staff members whonever played in the big leagues were.

When appointed,Mitchell said, "We will provide those whose reputations have been, or mightbe, called into question by these allegations a fair opportunity to beheard." But he has still not contacted a key player in the BALCO scandal,Jason Giambi. The Yankees' first baseman, who refused to say whether he wouldcooperate with the probe, said no one has contacted his agent about speaking tohim. Players are under no obligation to cooperate. Said one player, "I'mnot aware of a single [active] player who has talked to them, and I don't knowwhy anybody would."

Mitchell at leasthas preserved his autonomy. Bud Selig, says a source close to the commissioner,does not know when Mitchell plans to wrap up his investigation, though Seligwould prefer it not drag into the 2007 season.

Baseball hopesthe probe, which came about only as a reaction to the book Game of Shadows, canserve as a public-relations closure to the Steroid Era and offer lessons ofvigilance for a sport that allowed performance-enhancing drugs to proliferate.But anyone expecting an unflinching white paper stuffed with new names anddetails may be in for a disappointment.

TWO PHOTOSMARY ALTAFFER/AP (SELIG, MITCHELL) PHOTOWINSLOW TOWNSON/AP (GIAMBI)CREDIBLE SOURCE Giambi, an admitted BALCO client, hasn't been sought by Mitchell's staff.

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