Report hits home around sports world
Friday, December 14, 2007
That's what New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan had to say after seeing the names in the Mitchell Report on doping in baseball.
The ramifications stretched far beyond baseball Thursday, sending reverberations through the other leagues and all the way to the White House, where President Bush's spokeswoman expressed hope this "marks the beginning of the end of steroid abuse."
Even an obscure middle reliever found himself on the defensive after being linked to a case that tarnished two of the game's greatest players, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
"I'm not worried," said St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Franklin, among the 86 current and former players implicated in a report nearly two years in the making.
But others did have concerns about the fallout from what might be the sports most scandalous day since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
What about the Milwaukee Brewers, who just finalized a $10 million deal with new closer Eric Gagne -- then read the embarrassing allegations that he received two shipments of human growth hormone and once questioned the supplier about how to get air out of a syringe?
"Our goal is to field the best team possible based on information we have in hand," general manager Doug Melvin said in a statement. "While we were disappointed to see information from 2004 related to Eric in the report, we still firmly believe that his addition to the club makes us a much stronger team as we head into the 2008 campaign."
Other sports certainly took note of baseball's dirty laundry.
"Is it a dark day? I think there's been a lot of dark days. You go back to the Black Sox scandal. There's always been those moments. You go back to the early '50s when college basketball was absolutely rife with point-shaving guys," Miami Heat coach Pat Riley said. "There's always something. Drugs, steroids."
Tony Dungy, coach of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, said everyone has been tainted by performance-enhancing drugs.
"There's always a push in sports, and probably in life, to get ahead," he said. "We're all naive if we think that things haven't happened and guys haven't tried to get ahead in other ways in all sports. I think that's just human nature.
"I'll be interested to see [the report] and see some of the recommendations for what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen in baseball again," he added, "and to make sure it doesn't happen in our sport."
Said New York Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce: "I think it is a disgrace for the sport, baseball, whatever sport, if you have to use some kind of enhancement or some kind of performance to get ahead."
"We all put in the same amount of hours of work throughout the year and for you to go and get something like that, especially if you are a guy with a big name, it makes no sense to me. It is something I would never hope to see in the National Football League and I hope baseball can deal with it and recover from it," he said.
Campaigning in Iowa, Republican presidential candidate John McCain put most of the blame on the players' union for blocking meaningful steps to clean up the sport, which has seen some of its biggest stars tainted by the stain of illegal substances.
"It's time now for the players union to step forward and say 'OK, we'll save the game and the reputation of the game and cooperate with meaningful, tough punishments, and testing procedures so that we can prevent this from ever happening again," he said.
George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who led the investigation, encouraged commissioner Bud Selig to resist the urge to punish current players named in the report.
In return, McCain said, the players' union should be more willing to accept stiffer sanctions for drug scofflaws in the future.
Hardly any team was spared from having at least one current or former player named in the report, which also documented the open discussions among team officials about suspected drug users when pondering trades or free agent signings.
The Detroit Tigers, whose roster includes one of the biggest names in the report, Gary Sheffield, released a statement saying "the eradication of performance-enhancing substances in baseball and protecting the integrity of the game are the ultimate goals of the industry." They didn't mention Sheffield.
Franklin, the Cardinals pitcher, was suspended for 10 games in 2005 after a positive test for anabolic steroids. He denied any wrongdoing at the time, saying "there has to be a flaw in the system. I have no clue."
He wasn't so talkative after his name came up again Thursday.
"No thoughts and no comment," Franklin said. "I can't say anything."
Bush's spokeswoman said he doesn't remember any players using steroids during his tenure as managing partner of the Rangers. He left the post in 1994 to run for governor of Texas.
"The president hopes that this report marks the beginning of the end of steroid abuse," press secretary Dana Perino said.
Among those attending Mitchell's news conference was Don Hooton, whose 17-year-old son, Taylor, committed suicide in 2003.
Doctors believe Taylor Hooton became depressed after he stopped using steroids. Since Taylor's death, Hooton has been traveling the country raising awareness about the perils of steroids.
"The main message that I take away is that Sen. Mitchell got it," Hooton said. "Yes, it's important for the public to know the integrity of the players -- or lack thereof. But the bigger issue, as he acknowledged, is the impact that these role models are having on kids.
"From my perspective, this issue is so much bigger than about asterisks on records and penalties. This is about guys that have broken the law, and as a result we've got hundreds of thousands of kids that are following their lead."
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco, Eddie Pells in Denver, Mike Marot in Indianapolis, Tom Canavan in East Rutherford, N.J., Rachel Cohen in New York and Associated Press Writers Amy Lorentzen in Davenport, Iowa, and Ben Feller in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.