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Monday, February 26, 2007
Fehr says union will advise players on Mitchell probe if asked

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The players' association will offer advice but said it's the choice of each individual whether to cooperate with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's investigation into steroids use.

"We haven't made any comment about the Mitchell investigation specifically," union head Donald Fehr said Monday. "What you should expect, however, is that any time any player has an issue with that or something arises, then we will give them whatever our best advice is under the circumstances, and then players make their individual decisions."

Mitchell, hired by commissioner Bud Selig just before the start of the 2006 season, warned baseball owners in January that a lack of cooperation with his investigation into steroid use will "significantly increase" the chances of government involvement.

Fehr, starting his annual spring training tour by meeting with the Arizona Diamondbacks, said Mitchell's comments were unnecessary and that important individual rights are involved.

"I don't think there's anything productive for us to engage in a war," Fehr said. "We spend a lot of time in this country lately with lawyers trying to get public relations advantage on things. I'm not sure that when you're dealing with rights which may be in some sense fairly technical and legal that you ought to be doing that."

On another drug-related issue, Fehr said the union will "take a hard look" at any verified test to detect human growth hormone. That drug cannot be detected by a urine test, and a blood test is in its early stages of use.

"So far as I know it hasn't been peer reviewed by anybody," he said. "Nobody knows the details. We'll take a hard look at whatever it becomes when and if it becomes."

He believes baseball's current anti-drug rules, strengthened under pressure from Congress, "are working pretty well."

Fehr sidestepped an opinion about Barry Bonds and whether Selig would honor him if the Giants slugger breaks Hank Aaron's career home run record.

"You know, look, at this point with all the controversy surrounding him, you ask Bud what he's going to do and he's going to demur and basically say `I don't know yet," Fehr said. "We'll wait and see what happens. I'm not going to prejudge anything."

Fehr said this is his 30th spring training tour, and for a change, there is no contract rancor between the union and owners. The sides reached a new labor agreement last October without the usual public angst.

"It was remarkable," Fehr said. "It never happened before in my career. It made me feel pretty good."

The agreement currently is in the proofreading stage.