Published January 14, 2015
This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," December 6, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Senator John McCain (search) is vowing to crack down on baseball players personally if Major League Baseball doesn't do something fast about the growing steroid scandal (search).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We'll introduce legislation in January that requires some kind of regimen for testing of Major League Baseball players and I believe that we can pass it through the Congress of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Just moments ago, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig (search) released this statement:
"The illegal use of these substances is damaging our great game's credibility. It seriously threatens the health of our players and, perhaps most damaging, it encourages our young fans to use these horrible substances."
Joining us from San Diego is majorleaguebaseball.com writer John Schlegel; from Baltimore, senior baseball insider for Sporting News Magazine Ken Rosenthal; and, in St. Louis, is former Major League All-Star Andy Van Slyke.
Andy, what's your reaction to Senator McCain suggesting that if baseball doesn't get its act together the feds will step in?
ANDY VAN SLYKE, FORMER MLB PLAYER: Well, Greta, my initial reaction was I think he's probably got bigger fish to fry and maybe he's just looking for a little, you know, political capital here. But I guess I had to think it was good intentions.
You got to remember that our nation is a nation that's built on symbols and monuments and this past century baseball has been a great symbol of American culture and I think it is time that we, you know, clean up baseball and get back to the purity of the game.
VAN SUSTEREN: John, how serious a problem is this? Will this just taint the career of a few, or is this going to taint Major League Baseball?
JOHN SCHLEGEL, MLB.COM: Well, I think that remains to be seen. I think it's already been tainted quite a bit with the revelations last week out of the grand jury testimony but I think what really needs to happen isn't in Washington. It needs to happen between the owners and the players and, you know, this is a collective bargaining agreement.
To go back in and change the set up of the steroids testing would be unprecedented to even go into the collective bargaining agreement but it has to happen at this point. And, I think what Senator McCain is doing is showing there's definitely going to be pressure on baseball and the players to get it done.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ken, why in this collective bargaining agreement were they so -- in my terms -- "relaxed" on the issue of steroids?
KEN ROSENTHAL, SPORTINGNEWS.COM: This was an issue, Greta, that didn't even enter baseball's consciousness until this last labor agreement. Everyone talks about the union now but everyone was late to the party, starting with the commissioner.
Now, the union agreed to an initial form of steroid testing for the first time to start with the '03 season. They had survey testing just to survey the landscape. Then in '04 they triggered a penalty phase because so many players flunk and that's where we are now.
The reason it's so lame a testing program is because the players, the union won't agree to anything more and that's why they're in such an impasse now with the owners. They are just absolutely committed to maintaining what the status quo is right now. They want to see this program play out before agreeing to further changes when it's obvious to everyone else in the world that further changes are needed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Andy, prior to September 30, 2002, baseball didn't even ban steroids. Was it a problem before September of 2002?
VAN SLYKE: Yes, Greta. It's been a problem since the late '80s and through the '90s and, you know, I don't think it's fair to hold some of these players, Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa -- two of those fellows have admitted to taking steroids; two have not, but have been suspected of it -- I don't think it's fair to hold those guys in contempt today when we were cheering them on years ago when they were breaking homerun records. So, it is something that has been around and, remember, we would not be sitting here talking about this I think critical issue at the major league level if it wasn't for the BALCO case.
It took a federal investigation in a criminal case to have this come to the forefront and it's very unfortunate because I think everybody has buried their head in the sand at this issue. I think the ownership has done it. I think the attendance record has a lot to do with these guys hitting homeruns and when you're setting attendance records a lot of people benefit. The owners like it. The general managers like it and the ball clubs like it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Ken, any idea when steroids sort of reared its ugly head in Major League Baseball, what year?
ROSENTHAL: I think what Andy said is accurate that it started probably in the late '80s. Ben Johnson, of course, stripped of the Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters in 1988. And then it gradually filtered into baseball all through the '90s and I would disagree with Andy on one point.
This is not something that wasn't talked about. It's been talked about for quite some time now and it was even talked about in '98 during the great homerun race between McGwire and Sosa when it became evident that McGwire was using Andro. So, I think it's something that's been discussed. It's something that baseball ignored and it's something that the union has fought against for a long time.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, if they're quiet about it much longer, Senator John McCain will certainly get involved in this. We'll have to wait and see. He said he's going to wait until January if he's going to get involved.
Gentlemen, thank you.
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