Sitting here watching the press conference and reading the Operación Mitchell report, I’m left wanting. Much of the report seems to try to aggregate the facts that have been known for years in professional sports in general and Baseball in particular. To summarize the report all you need to know is these two quotes. First from the report itself.
Since 1986, drug testing has been subject to collective bargaining in Major League Baseball. For many years, citing concerns for the privacy rights of players, the Players Association opposed mandatory random drug testing of its members for steroids or other substances. On the other side of the bargaining table, the owners and several Commissioners proposed drug testing programs but gave the issue a much lower priority in bargaining than economic issues.
Second, the report quotes Jeff Kent of the LA Dodgers as saying that “Baseball is trying to investigate the past so it can fix the future.”
That’s a tall order. Fixing the future will entail getting past the Players Association. I don’t hink they can work with them since they attempted to impede this investigation from the start.
The Players Association was largely uncooperative.
(1) It rejected totally my requests for relevant documents.
(2) It permitted one interview with its executive director, Donald Fehr; my request for an interview with its chief operating officer, Gene Orza, was refused.
(3) It refused my request to interview the director of the Montreal laboratory that analyzes drug tests under baseball’s drug program but permitted her to provide me with a letter addressing a limited number of issues.
(4) I sent a memorandum to every active player in Major League Baseball encouraging each player to contact me or my staff if he had any relevant information. The Players Association sent out a companion memorandum that effectively Discouraged players from cooperating. Not one player contacted me in response to my memorandum.
(5) I received allegations of the illegal possession or use of performance enhancing substances by a number of current players. Through their representative, the Players Association, I asked each of them to meet with me so that I could provide them with information about the allegations and give them a chance to respond. Almost without exception they declined to meet or talk with me.
So, I was wondering what the fix might look like. To Senator Mitchell, it is fairly broad.
(1) Major League Baseball must significantly increase its ability to investigate allegations of use outside of the testing program and improve its procedures for keeping performance enhancing substances out of the clubhouse;
(2) there must be a more comprehensive and effective program of education for players and others about the serious health risks incurred by users of performance enhancing substances; and
(3) when the club owners and the Players Association next engage in collective bargaining on the joint drug program, I urge them to incorporate into the program the principles that characterize a state-of-the-art program, as described in this report.
The bothersome point is that the drug issue is still positioned as a “collective bargaining” issue. The report points out that drug testing as a chip on the bargaining table is how we got here in the first place. I’m not naive. I know the power of the Player’s Association. I know the lack of will on the Owner’s side. They can’t even keep salaries under control, how will they attack this issue.
I also hate to see Congress get involved. When was the last time they fixed anything? That leaves WADA. I’m not even going there.
So, now the laundry is hanging out there for all to see. It is pretty dirty. Who has the detergent that can clean this up?