Former US senator George Mitchell has confirmed the general impression of steroid abuse among sportspersons, especially baseball players.
He has said several stars were suspected of using steroids and human growth hormones and suggested that the Major League Baseball (MLB) form an investigative arm to pursue allegations of drug use.
AdvertisementThose linked to suspected drugs use in the report include some of the sport's biggest stars: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Eric Gagne, Miguel Tejada, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch and Andy Pettitte.
The Mitchell inquiry was instituted in March last year by the MLB following the publication of a book that alleged the use of performance-enhancing substances by Barry Bonds.
Kirk Radomski, A former official of the Mets, a leading baseball team of New York, pleaded guilty in the federal court in San Francisco in April last to distributing performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of former and current Major League Baseball players for a decade.
Mitchell's report concluded that there was evidence that all 30 Major League clubs were affected by use of banned substances.
"For more than a decade there has been widespread illegal use of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball in violation of federal law and baseball policy," he said at a news conference.
"The response by baseball was slow to develop and was initially ineffective, but it gained momentum after the adoption of a mandatory random drug-testing culture in 2002."
All the players were invited to respond to the allegations in the report. Whether they will face disciplinary action is unclear, especially as many no longer play in Major League teams.
Any penalties for active players are unlikely to be as severe as the 50-game suspensions given to those who have recently tested positive for steroids.
Mitchell, a former Senate Majority Leader, urged baseball's authorities to look to the future rather than penalising players for past offences, many of which occurred when different policies were in place.
He also called on the public and media not to focus solely on who was named in the report - and for baseball to be allowed "a fresh start".
Although none of the allegations are based on positive drug tests, the report cited cancelled cheques, shipping slips and phone records as evidence of the players' involvement.
MLB and its players agreed in September 2002 to test for steroids, although penalties were not introduced for positive tests until 2004.
A ban on human growth hormones was agreed in 2005, although there is no reliable test to detect the substances.
The report also criticised MLB officials and the players' union, and called for major changes in the league's drug-testing programme:
• Appointing an independent administrator or hiring an outside agency to run the sport's drug-testing programme. It is currently run by the MLB in conjunction with the players' union
• Ensuring "state-of-the-art" testing, including introducing additional year-round tests
• Allowing the testing administrator to actively investigate "non-analytical positives" - information which shows a player broke rules in the absence of a positive drug test
• Improving player education about performance-enhancing drugs
Mitchell said one of the most serious consequences was that "hundreds of thousands" of high school-aged athletes had also been encouraged to use banned substances.
MLB chief Bud Selig said he embraced all the recommendations made.
Speaking at a news conference, he said that baseball fans "deserve a game that is played on a level playing field, where all who compete do so fairly."