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Thursday, December 13, 2007
Recommendations from the Mitchell Commission report

As part of a report on the illegal use of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball, the Mitchell Commission made several high-level recommendations.

"All of these recommendations are prospective," said former Sen. George Mitchell, who was hired by commissioner Bud Selig to investigate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. "The onset of mandatory random drug testing, the single most important step taken so far to combat the problem, was delayed for years by the opposition of the Players Association.

"To prolong this debate will not resolve it; each side will dig in its heels even further. But it could seriously and perhaps fatally detract from what I believe to be a critical necessity: the need for everyone in baseball to work together to devise and implement the strongest possible strategy to combat the illegal use of performance-enhancing substances, including the recommendations set forth in this report.

"I urge the commissioner to forgo imposing discipline on players for past violations of baseball's rules on performance-enhancing substances, including the players named in this report, except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game. I make this recommendation fully aware that there are valid arguments both for and against it; but I believe that those in favor are compelling."

Recommendations on non-testing based allegation investigations

There were several recommendations for investigating non-testing based allegations of performance-enhancing substance possession or use:

• The Commissioner should establish a Department of Investigations

From the report: "The Commissioner should create a Department of Investigations, led by a senior executive who reports directly to the president of Major League Baseball. 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; the success of this department will depend in part upon how well it interacts with law enforcement authorities. The senior executive should have sole authority over all investigations of alleged performance enhancing substance violations and other threats to the integrity of the game, and should receive the resources and other support needed to make the office effective.

"The Commissioner's office should establish policies to ensure the integrity and independence of the department's investigations, including the adoption of procedures analogous to those employed by internal affairs departments of law enforcement agencies. The adoption of and adherence to these policies can serve to ensure public confidence that the Commissioner's Office is responding vigorously to all serious allegations of performance enhancing substance violations."

• The Commissioner's office should more effectively cooperate with law enforcement agencies

From the report: "The appointment of a senior executive in charge of investigations, with an impeccable law enforcement reputation and the resources and authority needed to perform effectively the duties of that office, will be an important first step to improving relations with law enforcement agencies. One law enforcement official advised us in frustration that there is no clearly designated person in the Commissioner's Office to call when law enforcement does have information. The senior executive in charge of investigations would be that person.

"Improved relations with law enforcement agencies and customs officials may also serve as a deterrent to substance use by players. ... If nothing else, they serve as a warning to all players that no one is protected from being identified by his supplier. And suppliers may be more wary of supplying professional athletes if they know that sports organizations are aggressively seeking to identify and facilitate the prosecution of those who supply illegal substances to athletes."

• The Commissioner's office should actively use the clubs' powers, as employers, to investigate violations

From the report: "One of the critical tools available to all employers is the investigatory interview. ... Unless there are compelling individual circumstances to the contrary, the Department of Investigations, once established, should promptly seek to interview any player about whom allegations are received of performance enhancing substance violations and insist upon full cooperation. Where law enforcement efforts have been the source of the information, the Department should seek corroboration where possible (for example, records indicating the ordering or receipt of such substances) so that it has evidence to present to the player. This practice would bring Major League Baseball into conformity with other employers."

• All clubs should have clear, written and well-publicized policies for reporting information relating to possible performance enhancing substance violations

From the report: "The Commissioner's office should actively publicize its policy regarding performance enhancing substances to club personnel and require each club to adopt a uniform, written policy for reporting information about possible substance violations.

At least one exception to this reporting requirement should be included in the club policy. Physicians and club athletic trainers should not be required to report such information if to do so would cause them to violate federal or state law relating to the confidentiality of patient communications or information."

• Logging packages sent to players at Major League ballparks

From the report: "The Commissioner's office should require each major and minor league club to establish a system to log every package received for a player at its facilities. These logs should record the sender, the sender's address and phone number, the recipient, the date of delivery, and the type of package. Copies of these logs should be maintained for a period of time sufficient to aid in any subsequent investigations."

Recommendations that do not require collective bargaining

There are several other actions that Mitchell recommended commissioner Bud Selig take to address the issue that do not require collective bargaining:

• Background investigations of prospective clubhouse personnel

From the report: "The Commissioner's office should require each major and minor league club to establish a system to log every package received for a player at its facilities. These logs should record the sender, the sender?s address and phone number, the recipient, the date of delivery, and the type of package. Copies of these logs should be maintained for a period of time sufficient to aid in any subsequent investigations."

• Random drug testing of clubhouse personnel

From the report: "The 2003 proposal to implement mandatory, random, unannounced drug testing for clubhouse personnel was never adopted, but officials in the security department continue to recommend it. The testing could be conducted in conjunction with testing of major league players under the joint drug program."

• A hot line for reporting anonymous tips

From the report: "Sources both currently and formerly associated with Major League Baseball have suggested that an anonymous hotline or ethics committee for reporting tips may prove useful. USADA and its counterparts have employed such hot lines for some time and report that they have yielded information that resulted in the detection of drug violations."

• Top draft prospects should be tested prior to the Major League Draft

From the report: "The Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau identifies the top 100 draft eligible prospects annually. The scouting bureau has proposed that those prospects be subjected to drug tests before the draft each year. ... As with the minor league testing program, unannounced tests will discourage the use of performance enhancing substances from the very beginning of a player's professional career."

Recommendations on education

There are a series of recommendations intended to improve Major League Baseball's performance-enhancing substance education program:

• The design and implementation of the educational program should be centralized with the Independent Program Administrator

From the report: "As with an effective testing program, an effective educational program must be focused, independent, and transparent. The best and most efficient way to achieve this is to delegate to the Independent Program Administrator the responsibility for designing and implementing the educational program. This will ensure that the program is unbiased and operates consistently with the goals of the testing program."

• Spring training programs should include testimonials and other speakers and presentations

From the report: "Major League Baseball does an effective job of communicating its 'no gambling' message through testimonials and dramatic role playing. The same methods should be used for performance enhancing substance education as well."

• Explain the health risks in context and provide education on alternative methods to achieve the same results

From the report: "While it is important to educate players about the dangers of performance enhancing substances, it is just as important to educate them on how to achieve the same results through proper training, nutrition, and supplements that are legal and safe. While the clubs have done a better job in recent years of informing players of the importance of fitness and proper nutrition through their strength and conditioning coaches, this message should be delivered in the context of substance use prevention, so that the players understand they can achieve some of the same benefits through training and fitness and, if necessary, legal supplements."

• Players need to understand the non-health effects of buying performance enhancing substances from street dealers and "Internet pharmacies"

From the report: "In addition to the obvious health risks of using performance enhancing substances of unknown origin, players place their livelihoods and reputations in the hands of drug dealers. The public outcry over the use of performance enhancing substances in professional sports has provided the substance dealer with an opportunity to exploit his relationship with a player. The Commissioner's Office has been concerned for decades that drug dealers could blackmail a player to alter the outcome of a game in exchange for maintaining the secrecy of the player?s substance use. Such threats to the integrity of the game are as serious as gambling."

• Prominently display posters about performance enhancing substance use prevention

From the report: "Each club should distribute educational materials to players, and each clubhouse, weight room, and training room should prominently display posters about performance enhancing substance use prevention that (1) forcefully articulate Major League Baseball;s rule against performance enhancing substance use, (2) inform players of the dangers of performance enhancing substance use, and (3) explain the penalties associated with performance enhancing substance use."

Recommendations on the drug program

These are recommendations for changes in the drug program:

• The program should be independent

From the report: "Independence is the most important principle of an effective drug testing program. The parties previously have recognized the importance of this principle by delegating some of the administrative authority for the program to an independent program administrator. However, under the current program, both the independence of the program administrator and the level of authority that has been delegated to him are limited."

• The program should be transparent

From the report: "Drug testing programs must respect the privacy rights of the athletes who are tested. Yet to instill public trust and ensure accountability, they must be as transparent as possible consistent with protecting those rights. Transparency can be achieved by such actions as submitting to outside audits, and publishing periodic reports of de-identified aggregate testing results, retaining records of negative test results so that confirmation is available to correctly interpret subsequent tests, which may inure to the benefit of a player charged with a positive result in a later test."

• There should be adequate year-round, unannounced drug testing

From the report: "While strong sanctions for violators are necessary, those sanctions are meaningless unless testing maximizes the chance that violators will be detected. If tests are limited, predictable, or announced in advance, players can avoid detection and evade discipline."

• The program should be flexible enough to employ best practices as they develop

From the report: "Just as the methods that violators employ to avoid detection are not static, neither are these best practices. This may involve modification of the program as enhanced techniques, new tests, and best practices evolve."

• The program should continue to respect the legitimate rights of players

From the report: "While I believe that changes are necessary to make the drug testing program more effective, there is nothing inconsistent between my recommendations and continued respect for the legitimate privacy and due process rights of players. ... Although there obviously have been some differences and disagreements in recent years, the parties generally appear to have respected players? rights, and I recommend that any changes to the program in the future continue to recognize and respect the legitimate rights of players."

• The program should have adequate funding

From the report: "A meaningful program requires the funding necessary to be effective. It would be contrary to Major League Baseball's and the Players Association's self-interests to deny needed resources to a truly independent program.

"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, while still protecting the rights of the player. I believe that the principal beneficiaries of these reforms will be the majority of major league players who play clean and follow the rules. These players have been harmed by having to play against violators who gained an unfair advantage, and further harmed by having the legitimacy of their fairly-earned accomplishments frequently questioned. The clean major league players deserve far better than they have had to endure."