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The baseball players' union has agreed to discuss with owners the recommendations George Mitchell made to toughen the sport's drug program.
Commissioner Bud Selig sent a letter to union leader Donald Fehr asking that the sides talk about Mitchell's ideas.
"They wrote back, and they were amenable to discuss the recommendations," said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations.
Fehr said it was too early to tell where the talks might lead.
"We've had communication with Bud, and we'll be talking with players, and we'll go from there," Fehr said.
Under pressure from politicians, players twice agreed to reopen their 2002 drug agreement and toughened the rules before the 2005 season and again before 2006. The current drug agreement runs through the 2011 season, and Manfred said talk of an agreement on Mitchell's recommendations or reopening the contract was premature.
"We have an agreement that we're going to discuss the recommendations. Nobody talked about agreeing, reopening," he said.
The bulk of Mitchell's report dealt with conduct before players and owners jointly agreed to ban steroids in September 2002. Mitchell, a Boston Red Sox director who was Senate majority leader, suggested baseball shift drug testing to an independent authority from the joint management-union committee.
Selig can adopt some of Mitchell's recommendations unilaterally. Mitchell suggested the commissioner's office institute a department of investigations, that packages sent to players at ballparks be "logged and tracked" and that teams be required to report allegations of substance use or possession against players to the department of investigations.
"The things I can do unilaterally I have done and will continue to do those," Selig said Tuesday during an appearance in Cleveland. "I think the recommendations that the senator made are very reasonable."
The accusations against seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens from former trainer Brian McNamee were the most striking in last week's report. Mitchell wrote McNamee said he injected Clemens with steroids in 1998 while with the Toronto Blue Jays, and steroids and human growth hormone in 2000 and 2001, while with the New York Yankees.
Tuesday, Clemens angrily denied McNamee's accusations.
"I want to state clearly and without qualification: I did not take steroids, human growth hormone or any other banned substances at any time in my baseball career or, in fact, my entire life," Clemens said in a statement issued through his agent, Randy Hendricks. "Those substances represent a dangerous and destructive shortcut that no athlete should ever take.
"I am disappointed that my 25 years in public life have apparently not earned me the benefit of the doubt, but I understand that Senator Mitchell's report has raised many serious questions. I plan to publicly answer all of those questions at the appropriate time in the appropriate way. I only ask that in the meantime people not rush to judgment."
Mitchell declined comment.
"He stands 100 percent behind the accuracy of the information he provided to Sen. Mitchell," McNamee's lawyer, Ed Ward, said in a statement.
Hall of Famer Jim Bunning, a Senator from Kentucky, said accused players should be given a chance to clear their names.
"If they're users, then yes they should be called out as users," the 224-game winner said during a conference call. "If they are innocent, they should have a mechanism to clear their name. ... If not, they're going to be convicted in the court of public opinion. And I don't think that's fair."
Since the report was issued, Andy Pettitte, Fernando Vina, Gary Bennett, F.P. Santangelo have admitted using HGH.
Now, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts acknowledged using steroids, saying he only tried the drug once.
"In 2003, when I took one shot of steroids, I immediately realized that this was not what I stood for or anything that I wanted to continue doing. I never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing drugs prior to or since that single incident," he said. "I am very sorry, and I deeply regret ever making that terrible decision."
Baseball players and owners didn't have an agreement banning steroids until September 2002. They banned HGH in January 2005.
AP Sports Writers David Ginsburg in Baltimore and Tom Withers in Cleveland, and Associated Press Writers Laurie Kellman in Washington and Bruce Schreiner in Louisville, Ky., contributed to this report.
Players, owners consider Mitchell's recommendations
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