MLB still searching for end to PED woes

By Dave Fultz

On what was seen as a dark day for baseball by many, the Pandora’s box that is the Steroid Era was opened one more time.

It has been nearly a month since the Mitchell Report was released to the public, and the fallout from the more than 400-page report has only just begun.

I tried to resist the urge to pen this column about news from more than a month ago, but something like the Mitchell Report comes along so rarely that I just couldn’t help myself.

Another reason I relented is that Tuesday will bring the testimonies of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB Players Association head Donald Fehr and George Mitchell himself in front of a congressional committee.

The controversy hasn’t hurt the game’s bottom line, as the league drew record crowds and revenues again last year, but it has caused discomfort for those in charge.

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The Mitchell Report – which was released in mid-December – was followed by baseball fans, casual observers, supporters and detractors in an attempt to learn the truth and find closure for this troubling period in baseball’s history.

But, as often is the case with controversy, closure has been hard to find for both the players named and the powers that be.

The announcement and immediate aftermath came in the form of three separate press conferences, spanning an entire day, that received wire-to-wire news coverage from nearly every media outlet.

Each of the three men that will meet Tuesday with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform – first Mitchell, then Selig and Fehr – held his own press conference to discuss the findings of the lengthy report and toss barbs at his adversaries.

Mitchell merely presented the findings of the report and his recommendations to fully rid the sport of performance-enhancing drugs. Mitchell pushed for many changes to the league’s steroid policy and suggested that past offenders named in his report not be punished by MLB.

Mitchell seemingly tried to make the case that his report should serve as an end to the Steroid Era, as well as mark a time for changes in policy and the mindset of those both directly and indirectly involved with the game.

Selig and Fehr, however, used their press conferences to posture for the court of public opinion as much as possible.

Selig, who may be the most powerful commissioner since the players formed their union more than 40 years ago, pushed for the immediate implementation of Mitchell’s recommendations and described the Players Association as the main obstruction to this goal.

Just as Selig can be commended for advocating swift action, Fehr and the Players Association can be criticized for what came next.

Fehr stood at his podium and tried to downplay the effects of the Steroid Era and the need for stricter regulations. He blasted MLB for denying the union prior access to the report and hinted at the lack of future cooperation Selig had implied earlier in the day.

Fehr’s press conference put an ugly face on the Players Association, while Selig tried to mend his legacy, at least in the court of public opinion.

Though large-scale media outlets like ESPN, CNN and MSNBC were calling the report another dark day for baseball, I saw its release as a ray of hope that the sport could regain its place in the sun once again.

With a cloud of uncertainty hanging over this era, observers would never be able to separate the truth from all of the smoke and mirrors of years past.

Now that the truth – or as much of it as Mitchell could uncover in his investigation – is out in the open, the public can make up its own mind about this era.

This story is obviously not over.

One of the game’s most storied pitchers – Roger Clemens – is now in the fight of his life to combat allegations from his former trainer that he took steroids.

And the new all-time home run king, Barry Bonds, is still awaiting trial for perjury and obstruction of justice charges. The federal government has alleged that Bonds lied to a grand jury, and now says it has positive drug tests that prove Bonds took steroids.

And, of course, Selig, Fehr and Mitchell will make their way to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. They will answer questions about the progress MLB has made since March 2005, when these men last appeared before Congress.

The Steroid Era is not over yet, but baseball may now be able to see the clouds beginning to part.

Dave Fultz is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].