THE PLANK JANUARY 15, 2008
The big news at today's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the Mitchell Report was that the committee is asking Attorney General Michael Mukasey to investigate whether Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada committed perjury in telling the committee in August 2005 that he hadn't used performance-enhancing drugs. Two separate sources told Senator Mitchell that they had helped Tejada acquire steroids and human-growth hormone. (The Orioles' decision to unload him looks pretty good right about now.) But the hearing also made clear that baseball is at risk of falling behind in the next front of the battle against cheating in baseball.
Commissioner Bud Selig and players' union chief Don Fehr, who testified at the hearing, deserve credit for accepting responsibility for their past mistakes and for successfully cracking down on the use of anabolic steroids. In three areas, though, representatives exposed baseball's apparent failure to be proactive in combating other types of performance enhancers:
1. The medical-exemption loophole. Rep. John Tierney (D–Mass.) asked Selig about a disturbing statistic that was not included in the Mitchell Report (in fact, according to Tierney, Congress had to pry the information out of the league). Big-leaguers are banned from taking stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall unless it's needed for a medical condition like ADD. In 2006, the league granted 28 exemptions for players to take stimulants. In 2007, the number skyrocketed to 103--implying that the incidence of ADD in baseball is on the order of eight times greater than in the general population. Needless to say, that's not realistic. The use of amphetamines in baseball is not new (Jim Bouton wrote about them in his famous 1970 expos