Congress began its public examination of the Mitchell Report into baseball's steroids era by calling today for the Justice Department to look into whether former AL MVP Miguel Tejada lied to committee staffers when questioned in connection to the Rafael Palmeiro perjury case in 2005.
At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in the same, wood-paneled room where Palmeiro, Mark McGwire and others testified three years ago, congressmen mixed criticism of baseball and its players with praise for commissioner Bud Selig and union leader Donald Fehr for progress on the sport's drug-testing program.
"The illegal use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs was pervasive for more than a decade, Major League Baseball was slow and ineffective in responding to the scandal, and the use of human growth hormone has been rising," said committee chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat.
"The Mitchell Report also makes it clear that everyone in baseball is responsible: the owners, the commissioner, the union and the players."
After standing and raising his right hand to be sworn in, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell outlined his inquiry in broad strokes during a two-hour appearance.
"Now it's up to the commissioner, the clubs, and the players to decide how they will proceed," said Mitchell, a director of the Boston Red Sox.
It took more than 11/2 hours for the first mention of Roger Clemens, the star pitcher who figures prominently in the Mitchell Report and is scheduled to testify before the committee on Feb. 13, along with his former trainer, Brian McNamee. It was McNamee who told Mitchell that he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone, charges Clemens repeatedly has denied.
"You continue to feel comfortable with Mr. McNamee's credibility?" Waxman asked.
"We believe that the statements provided to us were truthful," Mitchell said.
Lawmakers said they wanted to hear about further changes that could be on the way, including the Mitchell Report recommendations.
To that end, Selig vowed in his prepared statement to develop a program "to require top prospects for the major league draft to submit to drug testing before the (amateur) draft." He also reiterated his willingness to support use of a test for human growth hormone "when a valid, commercially available and practical test for HGH becomes reality, regardless of whether the test is based on blood or urine." The union has said in the past it would agree to a urine test, but it has not committed to a blood test.
"I want to be clear that I agree with the conclusions reached by Senator Mitchell in his report, including his criticisms of baseball, the union and our players," Selig said.
Selig and Fehr were to testify later in the day, and they sat behind Mitchell while he was questioned by committee members who were easily outnumbered by the photographers kneeling in front of the witness table.
In some ways, the mood was captured succinctly by Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays, who began his questioning time by noting, "This is almost surreal to me."
Mitchell was asked why he did not address amphetamine use in his report ("They were outside the mandate of our investigation"); what level of help he received from the union ("As I said in my report, the players' association was largely uncooperative"); and why he did not agree to a request by The Associated Press to turn over evidence he gathered ("The responsibility for the disclosure of those documents rests with those who are the possessors and owners of the documents." Mitchell said there were 115,000 pages.
Said ranking minority member Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican who chaired the 2005 hearing: "Our work here is definitely not done. ... But as a panelist at our last baseball hearing famously said, 'We're not here to talk about the past.' ... Going forward, what will the leaders of baseball do to implement the recommendations outlined in this report?"
Echoing Davis' sentiment, Mitchell told the lawmakers, "Being chained to the past is not helpful. Baseball does not need and cannot afford to engage in a never-ending search for the name of every player who ever used performance-enhancing substances."
His report connected more than 80 players to allegations about performance-enhancing drugs. The name that stood out was that of star pitcher Roger Clemens, who is scheduled to testify to the same committee Feb. 13, along with former teammate Andy Pettitte, and their former trainer, Brian McNamee.At the 2005 hearing, Palmeiro said under oath, "I have never used steroids, period." He was suspended by baseball later that year after testing positive for a steroid.
When the committee looked into whether Palmeiro should face perjury charges, it spoke to Tejada, who at the time was a Baltimore Orioles teammate of Palmeiro's. Palmeiro said his positive test must have resulted from a B-12 vitamin injection given to him by Tejada.
In the Mitchell Report, Adam Piatt, Tejada's former Oakland teammate, said he provided Tejada with steroids and HGH in 2003.
"Tejada told the committee that he never used illegal performance-enhancing drugs and that he had no knowledge of other players using or even talking about steroids," Waxman said. "Well, the Mitchell Report, however, directly contradicts key elements of Mr. Tejada's testimony."
The letter Davis and Waxman sent Tuesday to Attorney General Michael Mikasey contains excerpts from the Aug. 26, 2005, interview of Tejada at a hotel in Baltimore. At the time, he and Palmeiro played for the Orioles.
"Has there been discussion among other players about steroids?" a committee staffer asked, according to the letter.
"No, I never heard," Tejada replied.
"You never knew of any other player using steroids?" Tejada was asked.
"No," he replied.
"Have you ever taken a steroid before?" he was asked at another point.
"No," he said.
Tejada's agent, Fern Cuza, didn't respond to a telephone message or e-mail. The Orioles' owner, Peter Angelos, attended the hearing and said he did not know until Tuesday that Tejada spoke to the committee.
Delving into Mitchell Report, Congress looks at Tejada