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The Mitchell Report - Witchhunt, Anyone?

"At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the "facts" reported were simply manufactured."

- Judge Edward C. Voss, United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Arizona, in an order to unseal the "Novitsky Affadavit".

I don't like Roger Clemens all that much. He's an amazing athlete with Hall of Fame credentials, and I was glad to have him play for the Astros for a couple seasons, but he can be a jerk at times and he's never been much of a team player that I can see. But with that said, I don't jump to conclusions when unsuported allegations are made, even against him. I do not accept the Mitchell Report at face value, and neither should you.

I was surprised when the Mitchell Report came out. Not about what it said, but by the public reaction. I mean really, what did you expect it to say, especially given the way in which the "investigation" was conducted? I hate the gratuitous use of steroids and completely agree they should be banned from professional sports, if for no other reason than the fact that kids copy what they see their heroes do. But at the same time, the presumption of innocence is - or should be - a hallmark of American justice. What happened with the Mitchell Report, is that a variety of people made accusations against other people, without the persons accused being allowed to cross-examine their accusers or even state their side of the story.

The media didn't help things, either. For example, ESPN gushed with excited anticipation about the report, as a preview of the report said "the big questions have been whether the final report would name names, and how many names would be named, and how important the names would be." The reader may note that ESPN was not at all concerned with the lack of any proof; the accused would be presumed to be guilty. Investigative journalism ended with the prospect of a juicy scandal.

That's why I noted Judge Voss' order. Back in 2006, the LA Times ran a story which accused Roger Clemens of using "performance-enhancing drugs". The accusation was based solely on the report that Clemens was named in an affadavit to the court made by Jason Grimsley. The Times specifically wrote "Grimsley told investigators
that Clemens used athletic performance-enhancing drugs." The order by Judge Voss observed that a "review of the disclosed affidavit proves that the Times never saw the unredacted affidavit. Roger Clemens is not named in the affidavit and Grimsley makes no reference to Roger Clemens in any context. At best, the article is an example of irresponsible reporting. At worst, the "facts" reported were simply manufactured."

Judge Voss went on in a footnote to show just how far off the Times was in its claims. He wrote "This conclusion is almost inescapable. The Times article lists six players purportedly named in the affidavit. Actually, the affidavit names only two of the six and as to Tejada, the Times quote relates to alleged anabolic steroid use which is incorrect. The reference in the affidavit is to amphetamine use."

Now I'm no expert on the fine differences between understandable error and deliberate defamation, but this sure seems to cross that line. Again, I have no special appreciation for Mr. Clemens, but the LA Times story certainly shows a climate that can only be called hostile. The Mitchell Report merely reflects that same environment on a much larger scale - the nation wants athletes punished, and all they need is an accusation, never mind the proof. Anyone who wants to get down to the truth of the matter with regard to Major League Baseball and the use of drugs, needs to understand that the Mitchell Report has no real value in that search.


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Comments (28)

WOW. I post a + star and 2... (Below threshold)
epador:

WOW. I post a + star and 2 negatives follow. Good Point DJ.

The media reaction to it ha... (Below threshold)
Wayne:

The media reaction to it has been the most appalling of all.

"the presumption of innocen... (Below threshold)

"the presumption of innocence is - or should be - a hallmark of American justice"

When it comes to doping in sports, no sport has taken it harder than pro cycling. (Mostly due to the fact that the center of the pro-cycling world revolves around europe, and France in particular.) The climate in pro-cycling has evolved to 'guilty on suspicion' and innocence is impossible to reclaim. A certain Texan has never failed a test, but most (euro-weenies) are certain that he cheated, simply because he bested others who have admitted to cheating.

It's not fair or right, but it is where it is because of past abuses. And it's gonna get worse before it gets better (if ever)...

For someone who uses a head... (Below threshold)
mikem Author Profile Page:

For someone who uses a headline calling the Mitchell Report a witchhunt, you sure do a good job of attacking the LA Times and ESPN for bad journalism. Seriously, the very first "evidence" you present that Mitchell did a dirty thing is to quote a judge attacking the LA Times.

When you get around to presenting your evidence against the Mitchell Report, it turns out that you are shocked that investigators don't ask their targets (including not yet identified targets) and their lawyers to cross examine those questioned before they are even accused. By your silly standards of a witchhunt any and all police investigations are witchhunts.

I hope you are just looking to get a few extra hits from a "look at me" headline. I read you often and hate to think I wasted my time reading the observations of a very badly informed pundit.

Did the Mitchell Report sta... (Below threshold)
Bruce:

Did the Mitchell Report state that Grimsley identified Clemens as a steroid/HGH user? I think it states that Radomski did...and Andy Pettite confirmed that he used HGH as Radomski claimed.

Presumption of innocence...... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Presumption of innocence...Clemens and over 99.8 % of the other ML baseball players refused to cooperate with Senator Mitchell even though the President had urged the players to cooperate. "to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, on steroids"...Hey Clemens sends the signal that the right signal is to let your personal trainer take the criminal rap for your own steroid use while you pick up millions of dollars of contracts, and the label of baseball's greatest ambassador...And when the "s.it hits the fan" you can hide behind your agent and your lawyer, because you feel you have earned it. (by cheating other players who weren't on steroids).

"as Radomski claimed", bruc... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

"as Radomski claimed", bruce? Not quite. Pettite says he used it ONCE, when he was recovering from an injury, to speed healing. Pettite did NOT admit to using HGH the way Radomski claimed.

And mikem, I noted Judge Voss because he caught a bald-faced lie by the LAT, one the paper refused to retract. That conduct speaks directly to the spirit of the issue, and so impugns the Mitchell Report, which made no attempt whatsoever to give the accused a chance to refute the claims, or pursue verification of those claims. Context makes the connection relevant, not that you grasp the meaning.

Your standard of justice would have sent those Duke Lacrosse players to prison. They were accused after all, facts be damned.

As for me, I don't appreciate the mob mentality, and sneering derision by you hardly demonstrates that you understand the issue, much less that you can defend your hatred of individuals whose guilt is anything but proven. Some of these athletes may be guilty, but this report is just what I called it, a witch-hunt.

Cooperate with an Inquisiti... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Cooperate with an Inquisition, Steve?

You prove my point:

"If you're not a witch, you have nothing to fear from the Inquisitor, I assure you"

The Mitchell report was a f... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

The Mitchell report was a fruitless factfinding effort until the feds offered up the key witness to testify in order to get a reduced sentence.
That said, IMHO, the report did itself a disservice by naming players. Everyone and their mothers knew MLB had a steroids problem, why they wasted the money to uncover names w/o positive tests is what makes it look like a witch hunt. MLB, without the players union, decided to put forth this effort to appease Congress, hence the choice of Red Sox Director Mitchell to head it.

It they just outlined how simple it was for "Player X" to get the drugs and how the owners and players union should move forward
to clean it up, it would be okay. But they named names just to get headlines.

Looking back does nothing for anyone and only causes animosity between the union and owners.
I was never a MLBPA supporter but I would support a job action by the players if any action is taken against a player without a positive test to back it up. The testimony of a guy in a gym shouldn't be enough to end careers.

I do agree with your critic... (Below threshold)
NMS:

I do agree with your criticism of the LA Times for their erroneous reporting. With the unsealing of the affidavit, it shows that the LA Times got played by a source that was played fast and loose with the truth. For that, the LA Times looks unprofessional and foolish.

However, I do disagree with the underlying message of your post. I do not see how the Army is reporting of the LA Times has anything to do with the Mitchell report. First of all, the allegation that was in the LA Times story was not a part of the Mitchell report. The LA Times story is about allegations that Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs made by former pitcher Jason Grimsley. The allegations against Clemens in the Mitchell report were made by Clemens' former trainer Brian McNamee. Therefore, the reputation of the LA Times story has no effect on any allegations of the Mitchell report.

Additionally, the Mitchell report was not carried out by members of the press. Unless he is a complete moron, Mitchell understood that the allegations within the report could be subject to lawsuits by the players accused. Also, Radomski and McNamee would have been subject to federal prosecution if they had lied in interviews with Mitchell. So, I don't think it's fair to classify the Mitchell report as a document that accuses players willy-nilly without regard for the truth.

DJ:I'd recommend r... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

DJ:

I'd recommend reading by Dean Barnett's article "On The Mitchell Report: Shoddy and disingenuous" in today's Weekly Standard.

Apparently "hearsay" from McNamee was the only "evidence" that Mitchell required in order to drag players names through the mud (Clemens, Pettite, Brian Roberts) and sully reputations.

This whole "scandal" has been a media-driven witch hunt from Day One, long before the Mitchell Report ever came out.

"Your standard of justice w... (Below threshold)
mikem Author Profile Page:

"Your standard of justice would have sent those Duke Lacrosse players to prison."

Laugh out loud.

No, I'm pretty sure that there would have actually had to have been a trial. You know, that thing where an INDICTED person would have the chance to cross examine those who witness against him. See, that's the normal sequence.

If you actually have evidence that the Report is a witchhunt, you would have presented it instead of trying to paint obviously normal investigative procedure as abnormal.

Why don't you wait until players are charged or punished THEN go after baseball if they do so without giving players a chance to counter the evidence cited.

I forgot one other point. ... (Below threshold)
NMS:

I forgot one other point. All of the players named in the Mitchell report were given the opportunity to see the allegations against them before the report was published. They would also have the opportunity to refute the allegations and have those refutations put into the report itself. Almost all of the players declined such opportunities, and therefore look ridiculous complaining about the allegations now.

Your argument is still bass... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Your argument is still bass-aackwards, mikem. It's not my job to prove anyone innocent, the accuser has to prove guilt. Notice the news and so many groups demanding suspensions and punishment SOLELY on the basis of unproven claims? Yeah, that's a witchhunt, and you're backing the wrong side of it.

If you actually have evi... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

If you actually have evidence that the Report is a witchhunt, you would have presented it instead of trying to paint obviously normal investigative procedure as abnormal.

What's abnormal, mikem, is to name players and sully reputations based on hearsay.

More importantly, MLB will not be able to post de facto punish these players mentioned in the report because at the time of their alleged taking of performance enhancing drugs there was no suspension policy set in place by MLB. (Yes, steroids have been a banned substance in baseball since 1991, but mandatory random testing and suspensions didn't occur until the 2004 season.) Clemens' alleged taking of steroids occurred while he was with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998 and after that to 2001. Pettitte's taking of HGH was in the Mtchell "According to McNamee, during the 2001-02 offseason, Pettitte asked him about human growth hormone."

In short, the MLBPA (as uncooperative as they have been) will scream bloody murder, and rightly so, if MLB even attempts to suspend players based on this report. That's probably why Selig was non-committal on how he would proceed in his press conference.

If MLB can't punish the players then due process and the ability for a player to defend himself and tell his side of the story doesn't even exist, except in the court of public opinion.

Loose fodder for a feeding frezy. Other than its recommendations, the Mitchell Report is looking highly suspect and more and more like a witch hunt every day.

I forgot one other point... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

I forgot one other point. All of the players named in the Mitchell report were given the opportunity to see the allegations against them before the report was published. They would also have the opportunity to refute the allegations and have those refutations put into the report itself. Almost all of the players declined such opportunities, and therefore look ridiculous complaining about the allegations now.

I believe the reason most players declined was that there was the threat (albeit highly unlikely) that MLB could potentially suspend a player based on the report.

Naturally, if you're innocent, why not cooperate with the interview? True enough. However, even if a player's involvement with P.E.D was even limited but potentially damning, why potentially open yourself up to suspension and fines? Makes sense. (I liken it to defendants not often taking the stand in their defense. Put the burden back on the accuser, but don't potentially give him an open door to send you off to prison.)

I understand a player's reasoning for not doing the interviews; I don't agree with it, but I do understand it.

The report is complete crap... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

The report is complete crap.

There is not a single Red Sox player listed.

The fix is in.

I mean Youkilis? Can you say say Anger Management?

Give me a break.

There is not a single Re... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

There is not a single Red Sox player listed.

Seeing as how Radomski and McNamee weren't associated with the organization, that's not terribly surprising.

Can you say say Anger Management?

If that's how you determine who's taken PEDs and who's not, then why not put Milton Bradley at the top of your list.

Heck, I'd put Lou Pinella up ahead of Milton on your list. ;-)

It seems´pretty simple get ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

It seems´pretty simple get Clemens and other athletes to testify under oath. And if they are as innocent as they claim surely they would jump at such an opportunity. Until they do, with heavy penalties for perjury, the arrogant drug cheats will always deny, deny, deny, and reports that point the blame will be called a 'witch hunt' and those that have no don't have this ambit, which the 'athletes' would prefer, will be called a 'white wash'. Canada didn't clean up its drug problem with it's amateur athletes until the Dubin Royal Commission following the Ben Johnson debacle in Seoul 88, when they had to testify before a judge, their protestations of innocence , and their tissue of lies, quickly fell apart.

It seems´pretty simple g... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

It seems´pretty simple get Clemens and other athletes to testify under oath.

And on what grounds do you think the federal gov't can request a grand jury inquest to get a player like Clemens under oath, keeping in mind the statute of limitation on such a relative minor offense as taking PEDs? I doubt the hearsay interview and decade-old recollections of McNamee would be enough to warrant any type of formal inquest (or want to be touched by any sane prosecutor...or at least one that didn't want media attention).

Until they (the players) do, with heavy penalties for perjury...

Perjury? For what? None of the players named in the report are currently under oath (save for Bonds in a separate case) nor were any of the players who accepted to be interviewed by Mitchell's team were under oath during the investigation. If they were under oath, they couldn't decline requests to be interviewed by Mitchell, that would be obstruction of justice. Sorry, but what's said in the media isn't consider formal perjury.

"Your argument is still bas... (Below threshold)
mikem Author Profile Page:

"Your argument is still bass-aackwards, mikem. It's not my job to prove anyone innocent, the accuser has to prove guilt."

Oh Jeez, a victim complex. No one said that it is your job to prove anyone innocent. I didn't accuse you of taking steroids or kicking dogs either (just to save you the trouble of bringing up those red herrings too). The Mitchell Report people did their job as any other investigation does its job, by questioning witnesses, gathering evidence and issuing its findings. All that despite the fact that most players refused to cooperate so that they could later call it a witchhunt and gullible people could join the crying circle.

Any complaints about how the final report was handled when it was issued, or how little evidence will result in what, if any, punishment should be directed towards... guess who... the people who handle it and the people who mete out punishment rather than the investigation team `who have no power to punish at all.

But hats off to all the unofficial "would tend to incriminate me" refuseniks. They certainly convinced everyone with any sense that steroids use and other forms of cheating are widespread in major league baseball.


Howard Wasserman, sports at... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Howard Wasserman, sports attorney: "the House can compel testimony--the House committee has the power to subpoena and failure to comply could be contempt of Congress. Players also will be under oath and subject to perjury. But they also could assert their 5th Amendment privilege. Or, like McGwire, decide "not to talk about the past."

Oscar Wilde: "a rich man can buy everything but his past" unless you are baseball's multimillion dollar ambassador to baseball, then you'll never be lacking in defenders.

Crickmore:What IS ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Crickmore:

What IS your point? If you're referring to the Congressional hearings, and in your half-assed, unclear way I think you are, that was 4 years ago. Those players stopped being under the oath the minute they left the building.

We all know you're being cryptic and sage-like by quoting Wilde, but as usual it ain't working. Either make your point/argument and be clear about it or stay out of the big people's conversation.


mikem:

Oh Jeez, a victim complex.

No, that's how the law works. It has ZERO to do with a victim complex. You're setting up a strawman by misrepresenting DJ's point.

All that despite the fact that most players refused to cooperate so that they could later call it a witchhunt and gullible people could join the crying circle.

Interesting thought, but just an assumption on your part.

Peter F..Maybe <a href="htt... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Peter F..Maybe this makes it clearer for you.

Steve,If this conv... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Steve,

If this conversation were a baseball game, you'd be considered way off (first) base and easily picked off. And that's what I'm going to do: pick you off.

1. Clemens, nor any other player, is currently under oath so no perjury charges can be made. That can't be any more clear. You seem to think they were under oath during the Mitchell investigation and that is NOT the case.

2. IF and ONLY IF those players are subpoenaed by the Congressional committee, and it is later establish through evidence that they gave false/misleading testimony to the committee can perjury charges be made.

3. Unlike Radomski's cashed checks that appear in the report, much of McNamee's "evidence" on Clemens is hearsay. None of Roger Clemens' checks (unless I missed one) appear in the report.

4. Finally, and most laughably, you're attempting to bring up an issue (perjury) that hasn't even happened (not even close) and potentially may not happen at all.

Now if you have a clear point, make it. Otherwise, zip it, the conversation is pointless and circular.

We seem to be miscommunicat... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

We seem to be miscommunicating ..No of course I didn't think that Clemens was under oath nor that The Mitchell report had any supoena powers...You remember that Selig thought that the steroids issue was way overblown, when he asked Mitchell for his report. You are right though I have long lost interest in baseball, and in sense I am gratified by the report. I suppose it was Jim Bouton's 'Ball Four' that did it for mem...when he was playing for the Astros..I even roomed with a Astro, Julio Gotay, playing behind Joe Morgan for while when Jim Bouton was pitching for the Astros, and driving an old clunker of station-wagon round. As Mitchell said over and over in his report it his the law of silence that commands the most respect for the modern ball player. No one wants to knock the gravy train. This story could have beeen an interesting one when George Bush traded for Canseco in 92 to change as he said 'the chemistry' of the team, but again following the insouciance of the president we can now put the steroid era 'behind' us.

Seriously, Steve, get your ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Seriously, Steve, get your BDS checked out. It's impairing your ability to think and reason like a sane human.

The troubling <a href="http... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

The troubling steroids time line..The baseball owners, with one exception in deference to Peter F. (like nearly everyone else) looked the other way...What do you want me to do rewrite history? This isn't exactly a new issue, that was just discovered in 2007.




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