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Archive for Saturday, June 23, 2007

Commentary: Steroids probe has been waste of time

Despite all the talk, baseball has done very little about problem

June 23, 2007

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If nothing concrete comes from Jason Giambi's vague admission to steroid use - meaning nothing new on the investigation front, no name-dropping by the Yankees designated hitter - then the time has come for Major League Baseball and Congress to shut their mouths, disappear, and vow that they'll never waste another second of our time. Because they've certainly done a good job of that already.

The baseball world waited for word this week that New York's $120 million investment would agree to meet with steroids investigator George Mitchell or face disciplinary action from commissioner Bud Selig. The rest of us should ponder just how much of our time has been wasted.

Baseball announced on March 30, 2006, that Mitchell, the former Senate majority leader, would lead its investigation into performance-enhancing drugs in the sport. There has been virtually nothing to show for it. At least nothing of consequence, anyway.

Until Giambi, there had not been a single current player who had agreed to talk to the Mitchell-led investigation. No one has agreed to turn over medical records, either. And to add something unfathomable to the equation, the retired senator has been devoid of subpoena power, which makes him about as powerful as a parking-lot attendant at a Phillies game.

Last checked, no senators have stepped up to exercise any powers of their own. All Mitchell's former colleagues have given are hints, praise for his resume, and little else. And all that does is add credence to what Pete Rose investigator John Dowd told me months ago: "This steroids investigation has no teeth. Mitchell hasn't been given any real power to compel anything from anyone. And without that, it all just seems like a waste of time."

Whom are we fooling here?

Why should anyone care what Giambi told USA Today last month? "I was wrong for doing that stuff," he said. "What we should have done a long time ago was stand up - players, ownership, everybody - and said: 'We made a mistake.'"

But what exactly is baseball going to do about it?

Baseball was behind the eight-ball from the time Giambi testified on Dec. 11, 2003, before the BALCO grand jury, and in the time since, nothing has changed.

What's arguably worse, though, is Congress. Consider this: In 2005 and 2006, members of the 109th Congress introduced five initiatives to address the problems of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. They ranged from the Drug Free Sports Act to the Professional Sports Responsibility Act.

None of them passed!

Meanwhile, the ones that did make it out of committees included a bill to designate a U.S. Post Office facility in Oklahoma as the Mickey Mantle Post Office Building; a resolution to honor "Shoeless Joe" Jackson for his outstanding baseball accomplishments; and a measure honoring St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols on the National League MVP award he received for the 2005 season.

This all sounds like a joke, but there's really nothing funny about it. Not when you consider how much time and money has been spent on this fiasco, the lives that have been affected by the court of public opinion, and the harm the subject of steroids has done to baseball and professional sports as a whole.

Some would say that the truth will set us free, and if it reveals the scoundrels, liars and cheaters, then so be it. But what does it say when a preponderance of evidence is continuously conveyed, when individuals are convicted in the court of public opinion, yet the only thing we're able to say in the end is: "Well, that person will never be liked, respected or honored."

The players will still cash their checks at the nearest bank on a bimonthly basis.

Major League Baseball was in negotiations with Giambi. It's the only thing that's generated anything remotely progressive during this investigation, from what we can tell. In others words, a person who seems like a decent human being who made a mistake just wants to move forward with his life and display that he has a heart.

Forget Giambi's heart. I'd prefer for MLB and Congress to flex some muscle. But we know they're not about to - unless a camera is nearby, of course.

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