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In order to pressure major league baseball to toughen its policy against steroid use, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform holds an 11-hour hearing on March 17, 2005, during which seven former and current baseball players are questioned. In response to Rep. Henry A. Waxman's accusation that all the players must have known about steroid use in the club houses, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro offer denials, Jose Canseco provides confirmation without a doubt and Curt Schilling is on the fence.
Congress' decision to subpoena former baseball players to testify
(FindLaw) -- If you are -- as I am -- a devotee of sports talk radio, then you have been bombarded this week with criticism of Congress' decision to subpoena a number of current and former baseball players to testify about steroid use. Only discussion of the NCAA basketball championships has vied for prominence with the steroid subpoena story.
Ex-jocks with microphones have joined with the apoplectic representatives of Major League Baseball and the player's union to set forth a long list of reasons to oppose the congressional inquiry.
We are told that Congress has no legal authority to conduct this inquiry, that it violates player's privacy rights, that it will impede ongoing criminal investigations, and that it is nothing more than political grandstanding allowing a bunch of opportunistic politicians to gain advantage by positioning themselves as anti-drug.
I just don't get it. Why would anyone -- especially people genuinely interested in sports -- be opposed to the congressional hearings slated to start today?
The legal arguments against the subpoenaing of ballplayers are nothing more than makeweights. And the policy arguments are not much better.
Suppose it's true that, as critics charge, some elected officials are acting out of selfish motivation. Even so, it's surely a worthwhile expenditure of some congressional resources to shed light on a key question: Is the multibillion dollar baseball industry rife with steroid use -- an activity that not only is against the rules, but also has the effect of perpetrating a fraud on millions of fans who want to watch genuine competition based on skills that come from talent and practice, not from illicit drug-taking.
Congress' subpoenas and hearings are legal
When the congressional subpoenas were first announced, Stanley Brand -- the Washington, D.C. attorney representing Major League Baseball and the players -- challenged the jurisdiction of the Government Reform Committee to conduct its proposed hearings. But this was a desperate defense: Brand's argument had no legal merit.
The Government Reform Committee is the principal investigative committee of the House. It possesses oversight jurisdiction to conduct investigations of any matter falling under the purview of the legislature. Without question, the issue of steroids in baseball qualifies as a matter within the power of Congress to oversee and regulate. After all, the use of performance enhancing drugs is governed by federal statute, specifically the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Thus, it is simply beyond cavil that steroid use in baseball is within the purview of the Government Reform Committee.
For those who remain skeptical of this legal hook for the hearings, it's worth remembering, too, that baseball is also a huge national and international business. Under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, then Congress has ample jurisdiction to regulate baseball. Indeed, in the past, Congress has invoked this power to Major League Baseball's benefit, when it exempted the industry from the normal operation of federal antitrust law.
Congress and ongoing criminal investigations
As a fallback, Brand also claimed that Congress, by subpoenaing current and former players, was going to undermine the ongoing criminal investigations into the use and distribution of steroids in several major sports. But that's not true, either.
It is true that, as Brand noted, past congressional hearings (and specifically the Iran-Contra hearings) have ended up subverting important criminal prosecutions (most notably Ollie North's). But this happened not simply because hearings were held, but also - and crucially --because Congress gave key hearing witnesses testimonial immunity, which meant that the criminal prosecutors could not make any use of what the witnesses had to say.
Once a witness was given immunity, prosecutors could not prosecute him unless they could show that, in fact, they had completely insulated their work from the revelations adduced by Congress. Otherwise, a prosecution would conflict with the immunity grant upon which the witness had depended when he spoke (and chose, by speaking, to waive his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination). Because prosecutors failed to make this showing, Oliver North, in particular, could not be prosecuted.
The current hearings, however, pose no risk of repeating past missteps. To begin with, the Committee either did not subpoena or excused the players most closely associated with the criminal prosecutions: Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield.
In addition, the Committee refused to grant anyone immunity, so the Iran-Contra analogy collapses at the start.
Subpoenas and players' privacy
The argument that Congress' inquiry improperly compromises the privacy rights of the players is no more convincing that the claim that criminal prosecutions will be impeded. Actually, Congress has been reasonably solicitous of the players' legitimate privacy concerns. In particular, the Committee has permitted the League to black out the personal identifiers on the documents it has demanded.
Moreover, the privacy concern is overblown. No right to privacy protects a baseball player in his illegal use of controlled substances -- just as no right to privacy protects a common citizen in the use of illegal narcotics.
In legal jargon, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when engaging in unlawful conduct -- and, thus, it is no invasion of the right to privacy for a player to be asked about steroid use. (Again, they -- like any witnesses subpoenaed by Congress -- may choose not to answer by invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. But that is another matter).
Policy arguments against the subpoenas
The real issue with the subpoenas - if there is any -- thus, must be one of policy, not law. But here, too, I am baffled by the critic's concerns.
I freely grant the following: The issue of steroid use is pretty small potatoes on the scale of national problems. The Committee members who pushed for hearings are motivated at least in part by a self-interested desire to score cheap political points by embracing the non-controversial platform of eliminating performance enhancing drugs in sports. And these same Committee members are particularly delighted to waive the anti-drug flag during photo ops featuring anti-drug sports icons like Boston Red Sox pitcher and World Series hero Curt Shilling.
Yet even accounting for these concerns, it seems clear that the hearings are still worthwhile. It is highly unlikely that the congressional hearings will provide a complete or even a nearly complete picture of steroid use in baseball. But by putting Commissioner Bud Selig, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, and others under oath - and, thus, subjecting them to the criminal penalty of perjury if they lie - the hearings may well partially separate truth from fiction.
Were McGwire and Sosa juicing when they captivated the nation with their battle to set the all-time single-season home run record? Is Canseco telling the truth when he alleges doing steroids with various famous players? What did baseball management really know about the steroid problem -- given that some team general managers estimated a decade ago that perhaps 20% or more of all players were using steroids?
Three worthy goals
The answers to these questions (and others) are worthy of congressional inquiry for at least three reasons:
First, the problem of steroid use is not remotely limited to professional athletes. High-schoolers in alarming numbers, at least 500,000 by recent report, have tried steroids and steroid use is cropping up as early as Eighth Grade. Granted, exposing steroids in baseball will hardly solve this problem. But it may have some positive impact.
High school athletes take steroids because they think it will help them excel, and because they think they are just emulating the professionals in whose footsteps they seek to follow.
If Congress helps clean up baseball and shames the ballplayers who have been cheating with steroids, then it will likely ameliorate the not insignificant problem of teenagers endangering their health to promote their athletic careers. That strikes me as a worthy goal for national elected officials to pursue.
Second, I think Congress has a stake in the integrity of baseball. If Sosa and McGwire were juicing, and if baseball has knowingly been turning a blind eye to rampant steroid use by its biggest stars, then collectively, they have been foisting an enormous consumer fraud on the public.
Baseball is a game of statistics. Fans endlessly compare the players from different eras as they set and break records in a progression that marks the advance of human athletic achievement.
Baseball, moreover, is sold to us on the basis of its rich statistical history and the records embodied in it. This year, for instance, there is the possibility, dangled before fans, that Bonds will break Hank Aaron's record of hitting 755 career home runs (once Bonds surpasses Babe Ruth's mark of 714).
But baseball's sales job will have amounted to a giant case of false advertising if Bonds' achievements or McGwire's or Sosa's (or those of others) is the product of a secret medicinal formula for cheating the past. This would make the accomplishments we pay money to see the product not of athletic achievement (as we have been led to expect) but of chemical engineering.
And that would make fools of everyone who bought a seat to see Sosa and McGwire battle it out, or to see Bonds to hit another shot into McCovey Cove.
Baseball fans have a right to know if they've been played as suckers - and Congress is best situated to shed light on the question.
Third, there is a moral value in exposing cheating among professional athletes. Although this alone would not justify a congressional hearing, it could certainly be a salutary byproduct.
I remember years ago watching East German Olympians destroy their American counterparts yet taking solace in the fact that, even if we could not beat the chemically-enhanced East German's, at least we were playing by the rules. Now it is U.S. athletes who are the poster children for cheating on the national and international stage. That is disgraceful.
Decrying this development and publicly exposing some of the athletes who have created the problem, even if this amounts to pure symbolism, is still worth something. Indeed, in my view, it's worth a great deal.
The idea of a level playing field is deeply engrained in the myth of the American Dream. Most of the time these days, Congress is busy tilting various scales in favor of the haves against the have-nots. So even if the subject is only baseball, and if it is only lip service, I'm looking forward to Congress standing tall for the idea that everyone deserves a fair chance to compete. That's an idea well worth a hearing.
Edward Lazarus, a FindLaw columnist, writes about, practices, and teaches law in Los Angeles. A former federal prosecutor, he is the author of two books -- most recently, "Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court."
Top Awkward Moments in Baseball Steroid History
Let&rsquos face it: athletes are supposed to do their talking on the field. So when they&rsquore forced to defend themselves off of it, the air is ripe for awkward sound-bites. Add in the recent drama of the steroid witch-hunt in baseball, and you get some of the most awkward moments in sports history.
In honor of Thursday&rsquos news that Roger Clemens will be indicted for lying under oath to Congress, HUMAN EVENTS brings you these rhetorical gems from baseball players under fire for steroid use. Call it the Top 5 Off-Base Moments in the sport&rsquos history.
I will say this: I&rsquom like a tortoise to judgment on whether x player took steroids. My sympathies usually lie with the player until proven guilty. Americans should know baseball is so much more than just a witch-hunt of steroid use. The players on this list were targeted to respond to steroid use for a reason: they made immeasurable contributions to the game. The below incidents just aren&rsquot one of them.
1. Mark McGuire, the &ldquoHedge Master&rdquo
McGuire&rsquos hedging before Congress in 2005 when asked about his steroid use is now classic in baseball steroid lore. He chose not to testify under oath&mdashfor good reason. But that didn&rsquot save him from being criticized for his answers to Congress, including his famous line, &ldquoI&rsquom not here to talk about the past.&rdquo
He came to terms with taking about the past five years later, when, hired as hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, he admitted using steroids at different times in his career.
2. Rafael Palmeiro, the Finger Point of Indignation
At a March 17, 2005 congressional hearing, Palmeiro points finger at a congressman and says, &ldquoI have never used steroids, period. I do not know how to say it any more clearly than that.&rdquo
August 1, five months later: MLB suspends Palmeiro 10 days for failing a steroid test.
Congress decided that November that there wasn&rsquot sufficient evidence to recommend perjury charges against Palmeiro.
3. Alex Rodriguez, from A-Rod to A-Fraud
Really, Alex? Lying to Katie Couric? In this &ldquo60 Minutes&rdquo interview from 2007, A-Rod denies taking any steroid, HGH, performance enhancing substance or even being tempted to.
Oops. Then we get this confession in 2009. It&rsquos like walking backwards on the road to Damascus, where A-Rod now becomes A-Fraud. His body language undergoes a fascinating change between the two videos.
4. Sammy Sosa, I Don&rsquot Speak English Routine
Sosa, originally from the Dominican Republic, appeared before the same committee in 2005 as Palmeiro and McGuire. However, he chose to have his lawyers read a statement denying steroid use at the hearing, and if you watch this video, it seems like he&rsquos not very comfortable being questioned. Never having covered the Cubs, I can&rsquot speak to how comfortable Sosa was answering questions on a regular basis, but I did find this interview where the language doesn&rsquot seem to be as much of an issue.
Sosa hasn&rsquot admitted to steroid use since, though he reportedly tested positive in 2003 in what was supposed to be an anonymous test. Maybe Congress should have asked him about corked bats instead.
5. Roger Clemens, State of Denial
Roger Clemens has denied using steroids or growth hormones — including before Congress in 2008 — more times than Pat Sajak has spun the Wheel of Fortune. His testimony continues to contradict others&rsquo reports, including his former trainer Brian McNamee and Yankee pitcher Andy Pettite.
Now, the saga continues as Clemens was indicted for lying to Congress by a federal grand jury. Congress referred the testimony to the Department of Justice. I&rsquom guessing the awkward moments will just keep coming.
Baseball Stars Testify On Steroid Use Before House Committee
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Juicin’ In The Majors: A History Of Steroids In Baseball
Since sports have been around, the competitive nature of athletes has been pushed to the brink. As the times have changed, so have the ways athletes go about in pursuing their competitive drive.
Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are looked down upon in baseball more so than any other sport. This is in part because baseball is seen as a wholly unchanged pastime since its inception in the 1840s: the game the star players of today are playing is the same game played by the legends of yesterday. However, PEDs cast a shadow of doubt over records and milestones today that would never have engendered this type of discussion decades ago.
Here is how performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) became so prevalent in baseball.
PEDs can be traced all the way back to 1889, when Pud Galvin, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (which eventually became the Pittsburgh Pirates), used Brown-Sequard Elixir. That’s code word for testosterone derived from other animals, most notably dogs and guinea pigs. Even Babe Ruth, the legendary outfielder for the New York Yankees, tried to inject himself with extract from sheep testicles in 1925. This act only made him ill and forced him to miss some playing time.
Steroids found there way into baseball in the 1970s. Tom House, a former pitcher for a few teams, was the first player to openly acknowledge that there were six or seven players per team experimenting with steroids and human-growth hormone. Steroids then took a backseat during the 1980s when amphetamines became the drug of choice. Players of all ability, from Hall of Fame Philadelphia Phillie third baseman Mike Schmidt to journeyman shortstop Dale Berra, were using them.
By the 1990s, steroids had become an epidemic. According to The Yankee Years by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci, Rick Helling, a pitcher for the Texas Rangers and a player representative, stood up at the winter meeting of the Executive Board of the Major League Baseball Players Association and reported this problem. Initially ignored, Helling’s claim later became too large to disregard because of statistical absurdity.
There have been nine players to hit sixty or more homeruns in a season. From 1927–1998, a span of seventy-one years, only Babe Ruth and former New York Yankees outfielder, Roger Maris, had hit more than sixty homeruns. From 1998–2001, San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire and Chicago Cubs right fielder Sammy Sosa, hit sixty homeruns a combined seven times. These three players have also been linked to steroids.
In 2003, the MLB orchestrated a sample test to determine how many players were on banned substances. The results were eye-opening but the players on the list were anonymous. The MLB then instituted drug testing and suspensions. During the 2005 offseason, the owners and players approved stricter penalties for steroid users: fifty games for a first time offender, a hundred games for a second time offender and a lifetime ban for a third time offender. On March 17th, 2005, various players were summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before Congress on steroids and other banned substances in the MLB. This hearing would become a symbolic image as the war on PEDs waged on.
In 2006, the MLB asked former senator George J. Mitchell to lead an investigation into past steroid use by players. When the report was released on December 13th, 2007, more than eighty former and current players, including former New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens were implicated. Players like Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who were included in the report even though they had only used drugs sparingly, admitted to their guilt.
As the steroid craze has died down, other PEDs have become more popular. Testosterone and human-growth hormone, which were not originally in the MLB’s drug testing plan, became the drugs of choice. This past offseason, the MLB and the player’s union agreed to random, in-season human-growth hormone testing as well as testosterone testing.
The timing could not have been more paramount. As a Miami New Times report stated that previously (within the last year) suspended players Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon and currently suspended player San Diego Padres catcher Yasmini Grandel had consulted Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in South Florida, which is noted to have sold substances banned by the MLB.
Other players implicated in the story were New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez. This is the second time Rodriguez has been linked to PEDs, the first coming in a 2009 Sports Illustrated report, during which he admitted to using steroids as a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001–2003.
Whenever we hear of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, the heart of the fan skips a beat. Why do our favorite players have to cheat to prove they are solid major league players?
One could argue that this is no different than cheating on a test in middle school or telling someone a white lie for one’s personal gain. However, these stories hit closer to home. Baseball is a game which ties many people to their childhood. And if this pure element of their childhood is tarnished, then what can ever be innocent in the world of sports?
Steroid Use in Baseball: Players
2005-08-01T21:03:29-04:00 https://images.c-span.org/Files/708/185904-02-m.jpg Current and former Major League Baseball players testified about the use of steroids in professional baseball and other sports. Among the issues they addressed were several recent allegations of steroid use by players to enhance performance, their personal observations of steroid use in the industry, contract negotiations between players and owners over the implementation of stricter testing, and the impact of steroid use on public perceptions of the game and on youth attitudes toward steroid use.
The committee called the hearings in response to Mr. Canseco&rsquos book, Juiced, in which he admitted to using steroids to enhance performance and made allegations that other players were actively engaging in the practice. Prior to the hearings Mr. Canseco had sought immunity and had suggested that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if forced to testify. He did not invoke those rights at the hearing. Other players testifying denied using steroids.
On August 1, 2005 Mr. Palmeiro received a ten day suspension from baseball after testing positive for steroid use. In this hearing he denied ever using steroids or performance enhancing drugs.
Current and former Major League Baseball players testified about the use of steroids in professional baseball and other sports. Among the issues… read more
Current and former Major League Baseball players testified about the use of steroids in professional baseball and other sports. Among the issues they addressed were several recent allegations of steroid use by players to enhance performance, their personal observations of steroid use in the industry, contract negotiations between players and owners over the implementation of stricter testing, and the impact of steroid use on public perceptions of the game and on youth attitudes toward steroid use.
The committee called the hearings in response to Mr. Canseco&rsquos book, Juiced, in which he admitted to using steroids to enhance performance and made allegations that other players were actively engaging in the practice. Prior to the hearings Mr. Canseco had sought immunity and had suggested that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if forced to testify. He did not invoke those rights at the hearing. Other players testifying denied using steroids.
On August 1, 2005 Mr. Palmeiro received a ten day suspension from baseball after testing positive for steroid use. In this hearing he denied ever using steroids or performance enhancing drugs. close
Players testify at baseball hearing
Six of baseball's biggest stars made emotional opening statements Thursday at a congressional hearing investigating Major League Baseball's new drug-testing policy and steroid abuse in the game.
Active big-leaguers Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas and Rafael Palmeiro, as well as retired sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, were subpoenaed last week to appear Thursday before the House Government Reform Committee in Washington, D.C.
After Canseco briefly addressed the Committee, Sosa, via a translator, said that he has never used steroids during his opening statement.
McGwire slammed allegations made by Canseco in his recently published book that he injected McGwire with steroids while they were teammates. McGwire did not say whether he used steroids during his career and said he won't "participate in naming names" of players who used steroids.
In his opening statement, Palmeiro said emphatically that he has never used steroids and took Cancesco to task for claiming he saw Palmeiro take steroids while they were teammates.
Like McGwire and Palmeiro, Schilling slammed Canseco, saying his claims "should be seen for what they are: an attempt to make money at the expense of others."
Testifying by close-circuit TV, Thomas said he never took steroids.
Commissioner Bud Selig, players' union head Donald Fehr and other baseball executives will also testify.
In beginning Thursday's hearing, Representative Tom Davis (Republican, Virginia) the Chairman of the Committee, implored baseball to "not simply turn its back on recent history, pronounce that the new testing policy will solve everything, and move on."
"You can't look forward without looking back," added Davis.
Davis then went on to scold players and baseball officials for not being co-operative with the Committee.
"Major League Baseball and the players' association greeted word of our inquiry first as a nuisance, then as a negotiation, replete with misstatements," said Davis.
"I understand their desire to avoid the public's prying eye. . But I think they misjudged our seriousness of purpose. I think they misjudged the will of an American public who believes that sunshine is the best disinfectant."
Representative Henry A. Waxman (Democrat, California), the Committee's ranking minority member, echoed Davis's comments.
"There is a pyramid of steroid use in society and today our investigation starts where it shouldâ with the owners and players at the top of that pyramid," Waxman said.
Davis warned the "hearing will not be the end of our inquiry, far from it. Nor will Major League Baseball be our sole or even primary focus. We're in the first inning of what could be an extra-inning ball game. This is the beginning and not the end."
A spokesman for Representative Davis told CBC Sports Online that players who testify at the hearing do not face criminal prosecution.
Instead, Thursday's hearing serves as an investigative review of baseball's recently instituted drug-testing policy. White also explained the hearings give Congress "a chance to shine some light on what it thinks is an important public health issue."
However, the belief is that players who testify would leave themselves open to potential criminal charges sometime in the future.
Canseco tried to get immunity in exchange for his testimony, but the Committee refused to give immunity to any of the players.
In response, Canseco's lawyer said the former big-league slugger will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions that would incriminate him when he testifies.
Representative Mark Souder (Republican Indiana) warned players against pleading the fifth, saying it would be a "terrible tragedy."
Major League Baseball's steroid testing program was criticized in past years as being too lenient, but a new testing plan introduced this year calls for tougher penalties. A first-time offender will be suspended for 10 days. Second-time offenders will be suspended for 30 days. Third-time offenders will be suspended for 60 days. Fourth-time offenders will be suspended for one year.
All suspensions are without pay.
Under the new plan, every player will undergo at least one unannounced test on a randomly selected date during the playing season. There is no specific limit on the number of tests to which any player may randomly be subjected, and players are subject to random testing during the off-season.
Selig and MLB executive Sandy Alderson defended baseball's drug policy in a prepared statement released prior to Thursday's proceedings.
"Some have suggested that greater penalties, particularly for first offenders, would be in order," the statement read. "With the guidance of my medical advisors, however, I agreed to the lesser penalties on the theory that behaviour modification should be the most important goal of our policy and that the penalties in our new policy were well-designed to serve that goal."
There is excitement in the nation's capital. The new Washington nationals will take the field in just a few weeks, marking the return of major league baseball to the city for the first time since the Senators departed 34 years ago. Some fans can't wait.
REP. TOM DAVIS:
I'm a baseball fan. I always have been. I didn't become a political junkie until the Senators left town and I needed something to replace my near daily routine of memorizing box scores.
Virginia Congressman Tom Davis also is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and he invited several former and current baseball stars to a committee hearing today, not to get autographs, but to get their take on the prevalence of steroid use among players.
REP. TOM DAVIS:
Yesterday, USA Today reported that 79 percent of major league players surveyed believe steroids played a role in record-breaking performances by some high-profile players. While our focus is not on the impact of steroids on major league baseball records, the survey does underscore the importance of our inquiry.
A majority of the 568 players in the survey think steroids are influencing individual achievements. That's exactly our point. We need to recognize the dangerous, vicious cycle that that perception creates. Too many college athletes believe they have to consider steroids if they're going to make it to the pros. High school athletes in turn think steroids might be the key to getting a scholarship. It's time to break that cycle, and it needs to happen from the top down.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, whose newly announced steroid testing policy has been roundly criticized by many on the committee, did accept his invitation to the hearing. But when most of the ball players declined theirs, the committee subpoenaed them, forcing them to attend.
They include former homerun king Mark McGwire and current star Sammy Sosa. Together in 1998 they captured the attention of the nation in their chase to break Roger Maris' single-season homerun record. The committee also subpoenaed former slugger Jose Canseco, who in a new book has admitted his own use of steroids during his career, and has implicated McGwire and others as well.
New York Yankee Jason Giambi was subpoenaed, but was excused from testifying because of his involvement in a grand jury investigation of a steroid distribution ring. Committee members first heard from doctors who have studied extensively the health effects of steroid abuse, especially on adolescents.
DR. NORA VOLKOW, National Institute of Drug Abuse: Anabolic steroids can lead to heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and serious psychiatric problems such as aggression, depression, psychosis, mania. Some of these consequences persist long after the person stops taking the drug. Indeed, depression induced by steroid withdrawal can result in suicide weeks after drug discontinuation.
And they heard from parents whose children did commit suicide.
DONALD HOOTON, Parent:
I have several messages for the professional athletes: First, I am sick and tired of having you tell us you don't want to be considered role models. If you haven't figured it out yet, let me break the news to you that whether you like it or not, you are role models.
And parents across America should hold you accountable for behavior that inspires our kids to do things that put their health at risk and that teaches them that the ethics we try to teach them around our kitchen table somehow don't apply to them.
Then at mid-afternoon, the lineup of current and former major league all stars and their legal representatives entered the hearing room. And while there were no cheers or applause, there was a sense of opening day anticipation.
We have a very distinguished panel here, obviously, in front of us.
Jose Canseco, whose allegations of steroid use in baseball led to this hearing, was the first to speak.
When I decided to write my life's story, I was aware that what I revealed about myself and the game I played for a majority of my life would create a stir in the athletic world. I didn't know that my revelations would reverberate in the halls of this chamber and in the hearts of so many.
Former Chicago Cub and current Baltimore Oriole Sammy Sosa had his lawyer read his statement, denying he ever used steroids. Sosa then spoke for himself.
I was back there in the room and I was watching in TV the two families that lost the two kids, and it really shocked me and broke my heart. I want to extend sympathy to those families that got to go through that situation. And, you know, the quicker we can resolve this problem of steroids, which is bad for kids, you know&hellip I willing to work with you guys and do the best that I can to stop that.
Mark McGwire was up next and also spoke of the families.
I admire the parents who had the courage to appear before the committee and warn the dangers of steroid use. My heart goes out to them.
McGwire then talked generally about steroids and baseball.
There has been a problem with steroid use in baseball. Like any sport where there is pressure to perform at the highest level and there has been no testing to control performance-enhancing drugs, problems develop.
I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates.
Following McGwire in the lineup was Rafael Palmeiro, also a Baltimore Oriole. He also denied steroid use as is alleged in the Canseco book.
I am against the use of steroids. I don't think athletes should use steroids and I don't think our kids should use them. The point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Jose Canseco. Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes.
Palmeiro said he would be happy to join a new "zero-tolerance" task force Chairman Davis announced he was forming to combat steroids in sports. Curt Schilling of the Boston Red Sox and Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox, who testified by remote, have agreed to be co- chairmen.
But members of the committee found it difficult to draw out the players with any of their questions. Henry Waxman directly asked each of them about his personal knowledge of steroid use in baseball.
Is it something that most of the baseball players knew about?
Sir, I have never seen the use of steroids in the clubhouse.
Let me ask Mr. Schilling, did players know?
CURT SCHILLING, Boston Red Sox:
I think there was suspicion. I don't think any of us knew. Contrary to the claim of former players. While I agree it's a problem, I think the issue was grossly overstated by some people, including myself.
Do you think it's basically a non-problem in baseball?
No. Absolutely not. I think it's an issue. I think if one person is using, it's a problem.
Mr. Sosa, did you know that other players were using steroids?
To my knowledge, I don't know.
Several members of the committee issued a warning that if officials of major league baseball don't adopt a policy that ensures the elimination of steroid use, then Congress will do it for them.
Baseball stars, officials testify
In an all-day hearing, the Committee on Government Reform had two targets: the celebrity ballplayers - including two Orioles and a defiant Mark McGwire - and the sport's governing officials. Mostly, it threw softballs at the players while pelting commissioner Bud Selig and his aides with inside heat.
"I have not been reassured one bit by the testimony I've heard today," said committee member Stephen F. Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat. "There are so many loopholes in this [steroid testing], it is just unbelievable. I think Congress has to act."
It was the handful of current and former ballplayers who created the oddest spectacle. Wearing dark suits and ties instead of uniforms, they were sworn in and asked to sit at the same witness table with retired slugger Jose Canseco, who has accused several of them of steroid use.
Most of the players seemed uneasy. Asked whether he supports a tougher steroid testing policy, McGwire drew a laugh when he replied: "Whatever anybody can do to improve it so there are no more meetings like this, I'm all for it."
Earlier, McGwire, his voice quivering with emotion, said he was unable to answer questions about whether he used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.
"My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family or myself," said McGwire, who had a record-setting home run duel with current Oriole and fellow witness Sammy Sosa in 1998. "If a player answers no, he simply will not be believed. If he answers yes, he risks public scorn and endless government investigations."
McGwire's repeated refusal to address questions about past behavior - as well as the curt answers of other current and former players - frustrated some committee members. The committee had convened the all-day hearing after saying it wanted to uncover the truth about steroid rumors and allegations in the sport, and send a warning about the drugs to youths.
"McGwire's testimony was a euphemism for saying, 'I'm not about to come clean,'" Rep. Mark E. Souder, an Indiana Republican, said in an interview. "As a baseball fan, I think he should have double or triple asterisks beside his records."
Canseco sat next to the men who - in the case of McGwire and Oriole Rafael Palmeiro - he had accused of steroid use in his book. Canseco wrote that he also suspected Sosa, a former Chicago Cub traded to the Orioles this year, but had no proof.
In his remarks, Palmeiro got right to the point. "I have never used steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that."
Palmeiro, who said his family fled communist Cuba and embraced "the American Dream," offered to be an advocate in educating young people about steroid risks.
Sosa told the panel: "I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs. I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything."
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, a California Democrat, said she detected a "see-no-evil" attitude among the players. "I'm extremely disappointed in the testimony today. I'm not asking you to name names," she said.
But the committee generally didn't push McGwire or other players to respond. After a pointed question from a panelist about how McGwire might have known the "direct effect" of steroids, committee Chairman Thomas M. Davis III cut off the question. Davis, a Virginia Republican, said House rules protected witnesses from inquiries that would "defame, degrade or incriminate."
While the committee approved no formal rule, there was informal agreement among most members "that if there was a clear sense someone would not answer a question, we would not go after them," said a committee staff member on the condition of anonymity.
Illinois Democrat Danny K. Davis said, "I think different individuals decided this was not a criminal investigation and it was not about embarrassing individual players."
Baseball executives received no such cushion.
Baseball was repeatedly accused by the committee of "inaction" on steroids and misleading the public about the toughness of its drug testing policy. While Selig assured the panel of "tremendous progress" on steroids, many on the panel disagreed.
"Is Major League Baseball worthy of that antitrust exemption granted at the federal level?" asked Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican. "All I'm asking is that this issue [steroids] be given the same level of attention and interest by Major League Baseball as the gambling issue. The policy, to many of us, is unacceptable."
Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the committee's ranking Democrat, suggested it might be "time for some new leadership in baseball."
Baseball uses the antitrust exemption to pool resources among its teams and engage in other behavior that would not be permitted by other businesses.
A memorandum prepared for the hearing by the committee's Democratic leadership said: "Baseball is a multi-billion dollar industry that enjoys extensive public subsidies, tax breaks and an exemption from antitrust laws. Over the last decade, credible allegations of widespread use of anabolic steroids have cast a cloud over the sport."
Selig testified that the sport has reduced positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs from 5 percent to 7 percent in 2003 to 1 percent to 2 percent in 2004. He praised a testing agreement reached with the players' union in January that , for the first time, includes year-round testing and a 10-day suspension for a first violation.
"I can assure you we're not taking this lightly," the commissioner told the panel.
But committee members said a draft of the new testing protocols indicates that the initial penalty can be either a suspension or a $10,000 fine. Another "loophole" cited by the panel is a provision that the testing policy will be suspended if there is an independent government investigation into drug use in baseball.
Baseball defended the provision by saying it was written to protect players' privacy.
From the beginning of the 11-hour hearing, the committee seemed eager to clarify that it was not on a "witch hunt." Davis, the chairman, characterized the hearing's purpose in broad public policy terms. He said the most important function was to address "the larger societal and public health ramifications of steroid use."
In addition to issuing subpoenas to players, the committee invited two couples who blame steroids for their sons' suicides. The Hootons of Texas and the Garibaldis of California said their sons, one in high school and one in college, were advised by coaches to get bigger. Each family blames steroids for the young men's deaths and says major league stars set a bad example.
"You are cowards when it comes to facing your fans and the kids," said Donald Hooton, his voice rising. He is the father of former high school pitcher Taylor Hooton, who died 20 months ago as he was about to enter his senior year in Plano, Texas. "Why don't you behave like we try to teach our kids to behave?" Hooton asked.
Davis said that Canseco's recent tell-all book - and baseball's initial refusal to investigate its allegations - were instrumental in his decision to convene the session. A former Washington Senators fan, Davis said baseball "misjudged our seriousness of purpose."
Canseco has been the object of scorn within baseball since his book was released last month, claiming to expose "rampant" steroid use in the sport. One witness yesterday, Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling said he hoped the hearing wouldn't help Canseco "sell more books."
CONGRESS GRILLS PLAYERS ON STEROIDS
WASHINGTON -- On an extraordinary day of words and images, a House committee investigating steroids in baseball forced the sport to confront its past and rethink its future -- encountering resistance on both counts.
The most extraordinary image of all was that of Mark McGwire, once the game's most celebrated slugger but now the face of the steroid scandal, reduced to a shrunken and evasive figure whose testimony brought him to the verge of tears.
During the course of an all-day, nationally televised hearing, the House Committee on Government Reform fulfilled its goal of examining baseball's oft-criticized drug-testing program and its impact on steroid use among teenagers.
Committee members said baseball's policy was full of holes and threatened to legislate tougher testing policies if the sport doesn't come up with them itself.
In the process, however, the committee also ripped wide open the sport's most tender wound. Asked repeatedly by committee members whether he had used steroids in achieving unprecedented power numbers before his retirement in 2001, McGwire deflected each question -- his non-answers standing in stark contrast to the unabashed frankness of Jose Canseco, McGwire's former Oakland Athletics teammate and an admitted steroid user.
While McGwire acknowledged "there has been a problem with steroid use in baseball," he responded to questions about his own involvement by saying, "I'm not here to discuss the past," or, "I'm here to be positive about this subject."
The hearing came as baseball struggles to come to terms with what it admits is a steroid problem. In the past few months, leaked grand-jury testimony by sluggers Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds showed them acknowledging steroid use and Canseco's book fingered some of the game's biggest stars as steroid users.
Pressure from President Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., among other national figures, forced baseball to strengthen its steroids policy this winter.
Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the committee chairman, gavelled in the hearing at 10 a.m. and brought it to a close more than 11 hours later.
Throughout the day, the panel threatened congressional action to bring the sport's testing program closer in line to the Olympics testing program, which includes regular testing and swift, tough sanctions.
Committee members grilled baseball's leadership -- Commissioner Bud Selig, league officials Rob Manfred and Sandy Alderson and union chief Donald Fehr -- over what they saw as flaws in the sport's drug-testing policy, which was instituted for the 2003 season and strengthened this winter to include, for the first time, penalties for first-time offenders.
However, baseball's current policy calls for a 10-day suspension for first offenses, as opposed to two years under the Olympics policy.
Selig, Fehr and the other baseball officials implored committee members to understand their policy in the context of a collective-bargaining agreement in which items such as drug testing must be negotiated.
By the end of the hearing, the lawmakers seemed mostly unmoved by baseball's arguments.
"I have not been reassured one bit by the testimony I have heard today," said Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass. The testing program "has so many loopholes in this, it is just unbelievable."
McGwire, whose Ruthian feats on the field in the late 1990s made him a national folk hero, sat on the same panel but never made eye contact with Canseco, whose recent tell-all book gave voice to the long-rumored view that McGwire's accomplishments -- along with those of many other contemporaries -- were done with the help of steroids.
Steroids, Canseco said, were "as prevalent in . . . the late 1980s and 1990s as a cup of coffee." Canseco's audacious claims and admissions set him apart from the other players who appeared Thursday -- McGwire, Baltimore Orioles stars Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa, and Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling. Schilling and the Chicago White Sox's Frank Thomas, who gave a statement via video conference, were invited because of outspoken views against steroid use. The others had all been connected to or accused of steroid use.
Giambi had been excused from testifying because of his involvement in the grand jury inquiry into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, known as BALCO, a California nutritional-supplements company, while Bonds was never invited to attend because, according to the committee's leaders, his presence would have overshadowed the substance of the hearing.
Palmeiro denied having used steroids, while Sosa -- or his lawyers -- crafted an opening statement in which he said he has never used "illegal performance-enhancing drugs," has never "injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything," and has not "broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic."
"Let me start by telling you this," Palmeiro said in his opening statement, looking directly at Davis and pointing at the committee chairman with his index finger. "I have never used steroids, period."
McGwire's testimony, meantime, was noteworthy for what it did not say. "Asking me or any other player to answer questions about who took steroids in front of television cameras," he said, "will not solve the problem. . . . My lawyers have advised me that I cannot answer these questions without jeopardizing my friends, my family and myself. I intend to follow their advice."
McGwire, who has been estimated to be 30 to 40 pounds lighter than at the end of his career, appeared on the verge of tears at least twice as he read his opening statement. The first time came as he referred to some of the participants of an earlier panel -- the parents of two amateur baseball players whose suicides were attributed to steroid use.
The tone of the day was set by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., whose previous career was as a Hall of Fame pitcher in the 1950s and '60s.
Apparently referring to modern sluggers like McGwire and Bonds, whose physiques expanded and whose home-run totals began skyrocketing in their mid- to late 30s, Bunning told the panel: "When I played with Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Ted Williams, they didn't put on 40 pounds . . . and they didn't hit more home runs in their late 30s as they did in their late 20s. What's happening in baseball is not natural, and it's not right."
Bunning went a step beyond those who say the records of steroid-users should be marked by an asterisk, arguing that the records should be thrown out of the book. "If they started in 1992 or '93 illegally using steroids," Bunning said, "wipe all their records out. Take them away. They don't deserve them."