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Transcript: George Mitchell on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published December 16, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the Dec. 16, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: We begin today with baseball and that explosive report about dozens of players, including some of the game's biggest stars, taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Joining us now from New York, the man who headed the investigation, former Senator George Mitchell.
And, Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."
FORMER MAINE SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL: Thanks for having me, Chris.
WALLACE: New York Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte, one of the biggest names in your report, has now confirmed that he used human growth hormone.
He's apologized for it, but he's also said that it was two injections over the course of his entire career while he was trying to recover from an injury. Your reaction.
MITCHELL: Well, that's what we said in our report, of course, and his statement confirms the report. I don't know Andy Pettitte. I've never met or talked to him. But from all accounts I've heard, he's a fine man. He made a mistake. He's now acknowledged it.
In my report, I recommended that the commissioner forego discipline on those players named in the report or others who've used such substances in the past, and I hope that's what occurs here.
WALLACE: I want to get to the question of discipline in a couple of minutes. But do you think that the fact that Pettitte and the information that you had about him — your source on Pettitte is also your source about superstar Roger Clemens.
Do you think that Pettitte's admission bolsters your report on Clemens?
MITCHELL: Well, that's a common-sense conclusion that I think many people will draw. We made every effort — every effort — to establish the truthfulness of the testimony and other information that we received.
I told every witness that I interviewed personally we wanted the truth, nothing but the truth, no exaggeration, don't minimize, just tell us what happened.
In the case of some of the witnesses, they were interviewed in the presence of federal law enforcement officials who informed them that they were obligated to tell the truth and that if they did not tell the truth, they would subject themselves to the possibility of further criminal jeopardy for making false statements.
In addition, in the case of the witness to whom you referred, he had previously been interviewed by law enforcement officials on several occasions, and they later informed us that what he told us was completely consistent with what he had said to them from the very beginning. His statements never varied at all.
So we tried as best we could to establish the truthfulness of what was said, and that's the situation that exists as to the report.
WALLACE: But, Senator, despite all those efforts, as you well know, your report has come under fire about some of the evidence that you have presented against other players.
Here's what Donald Fehr, the head of the players union, had to say. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD FEHR: Players are named. Their reputations have been adversely affected, probably forever, even if it turns out down the road that they should not have been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator, in some cases, you have awfully strong evidence. You have checks. You have personal notes. You have mail receipts.
But in other cases, the evidence against the players you name is much weaker. Do you worry about lumping all of these 90 people together as cheaters?
MITCHELL: Well, I offered to every player about whom allegations had been received the opportunity to meet with me, at which time I would tell them whatever information I had, show them any documents that we had, and give them an opportunity to respond to them with their lawyers so that they could have a full understanding of what the allegations are.
Almost without exception, all current players declined the invitation, refused to meet or to talk with me. So everyone who is named in the report in that regard knew that I had information, knew that the report was going to be published, and declined the invitation to meet with me.
WALLACE: But, Senator, let's take the case of one player that has gotten some attention, and that's Baltimore Orioles player second baseman Brian Roberts.
All you have on him is that a former teammate and confessed steroid user, a fellow named Larry Bigbie, told your panel — and let's put it up — in 2004, Roberts admitted to him he had injected himself once or twice with steroids in 2003. Until this admission, Bigbie had never suspected Roberts of using steroids.
Now, I know that...
WALLACE: ... your report is not a legal proceeding.
WALLACE: But isn't that hearsay and pretty slim evidence on which to blacken someone's reputation?
MITCHELL: It is not hearsay. The law is very clear that an admission against interest is not hearsay. It's an exception to the rule that prohibits hearsay evidence. The word has been much bandied about and much misused in the last few days.
The fact is the same thing that you're now saying about Brian Roberts was, of course, said about the statements about Andy Pettitte and about many others.
Let's wait and see what happens, Chris. We think that the statements made in the report are truthful. We did the very best we could to verify everything that we could and to get just truthful statements. And so we'll see what happens.
WALLACE: Let's talk about punishment. You urge Commissioner Selig — and you mentioned this a amount ago — not to discipline almost any of these players — you have a little wiggle room in there — for what they've done up till now.
But if you really want to send a message, and I think a lot of people feel this is the most important fallout, one hopes, of this report — if you really want to send a message to hundreds of thousands, as you say in your report, of high school kids who are now using steroids, why not do what the Olympic sports have done to Olympic runner Marion Jones? Why not strip them of their medals? Why not take away their records?
MITCHELL: Well, first, I think it's not correct to make analogies to other persons, in other sports, under different rules, in other circumstances.
I was asked to do a report on baseball. That's what I did. The Olympics is a completely different situation which operates in a completely different circumstance.
Secondly, I believe the most important task facing baseball now is to look forward, to turn away from the past, and to come up with the best possible program to prevent or deter future use. And I think that can best be done by looking forward.
There are several reasons for my recommendation. Permit me to give them. First off, more than half the players in the report are no longer in baseball and therefore are not subject to discipline by the commissioner.
Secondly, all of the events in the report are distant in time. From two to nine years ago these events occurred. During that time period, the rules of baseball were changing constantly.
To this moment, there's a great deal of confusion about what was covered, what wasn't covered, what was legal, what wasn't illegal. Much of the reporting has been completely inaccurate in that respect. So I think you have to look to the future.
And finally, let me say baseball players are different from you and I in baseball talent. But in every other respect, they're just like us. They're human beings, and they all make mistakes. You make mistakes. I've made more than my share of my mistakes in life as I look back and think of all the times I said or did something wrong and wish I could have it back.
So I think you ought to get over this notion of retribution and punishment and say, "We're going to turn the page. We're going to look to the future." That's what we did in Northern Ireland, and that was a much more serious situation of life and death, people dying.
We turn the page. We put the past behind us. We look forward. We got a good result. I think the same thing can be true in baseball now.
WALLACE: Well, let's look at another aspect of this. Bud Selig has been the commissioner of baseball throughout this era of steroids.
If you really wanted to get a fresh page, turn the page, get a fresh start, why shouldn't he step down?
MITCHELL: Well, he's the one who had the courage to commission this independent investigation. It would be ironic if, because of my work, which was at his request, something should happen to him.
Secondly, there's a lot of criticism of the commissioner's office and the players association, and my report makes very clear I am not an apologist for either one of them.
But let's be fair about this. Let's look at the whole record, not just the negative parts of it. In 2002, they agreed on a program to test randomly in a mandatory way for drugs.
That was a very important first step. The commissioner pushed hard for it. It took a lot of work on his part. The players association accepted it, even though for many years before that they had opposed any such form of testing.
In the five years since then, both sides have agreed to a number of changes to improve the program, many of them after my investigation started and we called to...
WALLACE: Well, but, Senator, let me...
MITCHELL: ... their attention such things.
WALLACE: ... ask you about one aspect of the testing program, because one of the things that Selig says now that he will do immediately and unilaterally, because he has the power to do it, is he will stop giving teams 24 hours' advance notice when drug testers are coming to test some of the players.
First of all, a lot of us didn't know that they gave the teams 24 hours' advance notice, and if he had this power and if he was so serious about drug testing, why didn't he do this years ago?
MITCHELL: Every drug testing program in the world, including the Olympics and every professional sport, did not start out full-blown as a perfect program. Every one started out as an effort based on the circumstances at the time.
And as they evolved, as problems arose, as concerns arose, as they became aware of vulnerabilities, they've taken steps to change them. It's an ongoing process, trial and error. You do the best you can in the circumstances that exist.
And keep one other fact in mind, Chris. In professional sports in the United States, the athletes are represented by unions. Under American law, drug testing in the workplace must be collectively bargained. That's not true of the Olympics or any other form of amateur sports.
So you have to get an agreement on both sides. It's collective bargaining. And you do the best you can in the circumstances, and then you improve it as you go along.
WALLACE: Now, several congressional committees are beginning investigations, as you well know, into your report and the whole question of steroid and performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.
As a former senator, what role do you think government should place in policing baseball?
MITCHELL: Well, my hope in this case, of course, is that the Congress and everyone — the media and the public — lets the commissioner's office and the clubs and the players association review this report, digest it, test it, analyze it, get their own experts.
I'm not the last word on this subject. A lot of people in this country know a lot more about this subject than I do. Get expert advice and then see how they respond. They can't do that in a matter of days.
The players association has 1,200 members. They're scattered all over the world. Christmas is a week away. It's not realistic to think that they can have that kind of consultation — you know, they've got constituents, too.
Members of Congress — I was one — like to go out and test the views of their constituents on important issues. There are 30 clubs. There are many executives.
The commissioner can't right now, you know, make a final commitment on everything that's going to be done.
WALLACE: So would you tell the congressional committees to back off at least for a while?
MITCHELL: I hope so. I hope they'll let these people take a look at this, analyze it and do the best they can to come up with a reasonable solution.
WALLACE: Senator, finally, I know that in addition to doing this report, you are a big baseball fan. You're on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox, and I must say I'm a Boston Red Sox fan, too.
How badly do you think baseball has been hurt by the practices that you've unveiled in your report?
MITCHELL: Well, obviously, there's no evidence in recent years that fans turn away because of this. In each of the last several years, baseball has set a record.
I myself am a fan. I'm not going to stop going to games. I love it. I'll probably go to more games next year than I did this past year because I was busy on this investigation.
But in the end, I think baseball has to do something, because if the skepticism that now exists turns to cynicism, then I think people may turn away.
Chris, could I take one second to touch on the one subject that I think is the most alarming in the report? You mentioned it, and that's the hundreds of thousands of young Americans who are now using steroids.
That's a very serious problem, and it's one that does — it's not just baseball. Kids don't just look up to baseball players. They look up to role models in life, not just in sports.
I think that's a problem that every American ought to be concerned about — shocked about, really — not just baseball fans or those who follow sports.
WALLACE: Senator Mitchell, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for talking with us. And we all hope your report spurs baseball to clean up its act.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Chris.
Chris will sit down with Green Party Presidential Nominee Dr Jill Stein, to discuss her controversial push for a presidential election recount in several states.