Ex-Senator George Mitchell on Fallout From His Report About Steroid Use in Major League Baseball

This is a rush transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," December 14, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: FOX NEWS ALERT: You know, I was just asking Senator Mitchell if he has had had any time to shop for Christmas. Apparently, he's been occupied. I don't know why. But, anyway, now to the man whose report has set off a worldwide jolt. I'm talking about former Senator George Mitchell.

Senator, very good to have you.

GEORGE MITCHELL (D), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thanks, Neil. Nice to be here.

CAVUTO: Boy, when it rains, it pours, right? As soon as the report comes out, now Congress wants to be involved again. A House committee wants to call you and essentially all the key players down.


CAVUTO: And now a Senate committee, the Senate Finance Committee, wants to see if there's a tie between this and maybe potential tax evasion?

Where is all this going?

MITCHELL: Well, I don't know. My hope is that the Players Association and the commissioner and the clubs will be given a chance to review this, and digest it — it's 400 or 500 pages long, so there's a lot of information to review — take a look at the recommendations, check with their constituents — you know they've got constituents, just like members of Congress — and — and with other experts — there are a lot of people who know a lot more about drug testing than I do — and be given the opportunity to come up with a position on what they think they should do.

And I hope that happens, and that we don't rush into something that forces them to take a position that they really haven't had a chance to consider.

And I want to say, people aren't very optimistic. I get asked a lot, well, what do you — why do you think it anything isn't going to happen? There is a record of action by both parties. In 2002, they agreed on a drug testing program. That was a big step. The Players Association had always previously opposed it. So...

CAVUTO: But they didn't do it with great enthusiasm.

MITCHELL: No. No, they didn't. That's right. But a lot of us do a lot of things without enthusiasm.


CAVUTO: Because you want something more random, right? That, at least learning from this report, Senator...


CAVUTO: ... a lot of these players found ways around that to kind of get a heads-up when a test might be coming.

MITCHELL: Well, the — after 2002, after they made that decision, for which they both deserve credit — the commissioner pushed real hard, and the Players Association did come along.

In the last five years, there have been many changes to correct problems as they arose, many that have developed during the course of our investigation. So, I think they may be willing to move forward, to keep that attitude going, to make further changes in it.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Senator, Roger Clemens and his lawyer said, effectively, we have been slandered. Have they?

MITCHELL: I invited every player mentioned in the report about whom we received allegations to come in and meet with me. I was — said I would tell them what information I had.

CAVUTO: You did this beforehand?

MITCHELL: Oh, beforehand.

CAVUTO: So, they had a heads-up that this was coming?

MITCHELL: Oh, yes.

CAVUTO: Roger Clemens and his lawyer knew?

MITCHELL: Every single player that I...

CAVUTO: And what did they say?

MITCHELL: They said no. They declined to meet with me. So, that put me in a difficult...

CAVUTO: At what point was this, sir?

MITCHELL: I started sending letters to the Players Association in June and continued over...

CAVUTO: June of this year?

MITCHELL: June of this year. Over the next couple months, as we developed information, I sent them names.

I said, these are players about whom I have received allegations. I would like to meet with them. And my intention was to provide the player with whatever information I had, documents, testimony, ask him, give him the chance to review it with his lawyer, and respond to me.

CAVUTO: But that could be used — wasn't Don Fehr's argument, of the players unions, that could used potentially against them in a court of law, right?

MITCHELL: In the last five years, since this drug program has started, 250 professional baseball players, most minor leaguers, but some Major Leaguers, have been suspended because they tested positive in a drug test — 250.

I asked the commissioner's office and the Players Association, have any of them ever been prosecuted and convicted? Not one. That's because the Department of Justice follows a policy, nationwide, which is that they don't prosecute the individual end-users of illegal drugs. They devote their resources to the suppliers, the dealers, the manufacturers, the people who are profiting in the illegal trade.

So, yes, they said that might happen, but it's never happened. And I don't think it would happen. And, so, my hope was that...


CAVUTO: But I could see why, legally, they would be twice shy, right?

MITCHELL: Well, they had a chance to come in and see all of the evidence.

CAVUTO: And bottom line, they didn't. They didn't.


MITCHELL: They did not.


MITCHELL: And — and let me just say...


MITCHELL: ... we made every effort to get truthful testimony, to get people to say what — as I said to every witness, the truth is what we want. Don't exaggerate. Don't minimize. Just tell the truth.

CAVUTO: OK. Senator, Jose Canseco was on our sister network, FOX Business Network. And he had said — I hope...


CAVUTO: ... I quoted it correctly — that — of your report: "It's laughable. I heard the report. I saw the list of players. And there are definitely a lot of players missing. I don't know what they accomplished."

MITCHELL: I said yesterday in my press conference — and I repeat — I did not learn the name of every player who has ever used performance-enhancing drugs.

CAVUTO: So, with the 75 or 80 names, could there be many more than that?

MITCHELL: I'm sure there are.

CAVUTO: All right, because Jose had said Alex Rodriguez got off the hook.

MITCHELL: I don't have any information about Alex Rodriguez.

CAVUTO: Did you look into Rodriguez?

MITCHELL: We looked into — we didn't conduct a special investigation of him.

CAVUTO: Did his name ever come up?

MITCHELL: His name did not come up.

CAVUTO: I see.

MITCHELL: And — and — but I said yesterday, there were other dealers. There were other suppliers, and there were other users.

In just the last two months, 16 current players have been named in state investigations, nothing to do with me. I had nothing to do with the Barry Bonds investigation. So, you know very well that there are more. So, I agree with him. That doesn't make the report meaningless. It means that we didn't find out...

CAVUTO: As you know, Senator, you're always going to get second-guessed.


CAVUTO: There was heavy reliance on just a couple of key guys, or key snitches, as the critics are saying.


CAVUTO: This Kirk Radomski comes to mind...


CAVUTO: ... who gave you a lot of your info. You're kind of hedging your bets on — on that guy.

MITCHELL: Well, he pled guilty, said he sold, illegally, drugs to many Major League players. He agreed to cooperate with the government.

Part of the cooperation agreement is that he had to talk to me and that he would give truthful testimony. I interviewed him four times. His lawyer was there on three of the occasions. And the federal agents were there. They said to him, you have to tell the truth. And, if you don't tell the truth, you may be subject to further criminal jeopardy.

Making a false statement to a federal officer is a crime, subject to prosecution. And you lose our commitment to recommend leniency at your trial, because cooperation...

CAVUTO: But he did essentially strike a deal, right?

MITCHELL: He made a deal. That's right. That's right.

CAVUTO: OK. Let me ask you about Bud Selig. Do you think he should step down?


CAVUTO: Why not?

MITCHELL: I don't see any reason for it. After all, he's the one who pushed to get the drug testing program in the Major Leagues in 2002 and got the Players Association to agree. He's the one who unilaterally implemented drug testing in the minor leagues in 2001.

CAVUTO: Because a lot of people say he kind of looked the other way, knowing that there were all these loopholes in the testing.

MITCHELL: Look, I was critical of him.

CAVUTO: Right.

MITCHELL: I was critical of the Players Association. I'm no apologist for either of them. But I don't think the reason is there for that kind of action.

CAVUTO: So, what does he have to do, Senator? I mean, you mentioned yesterday — I'm paraphrasing from your press conference — that, you know, you can go back and punish all of these guys or you can just move on.

MITCHELL: I think you have to move on.

CAVUTO: Will some have to be punished, though?

MITCHELL: Well, I said in my report that I think we ought to look forward, but, where he determines that the conduct is so serious that it requires discipline, he should do so. That's a judgment for him to make.

CAVUTO: When you say disciplined...


CAVUTO: ... you're fired, you're out, you're done playing baseball?

MITCHELL: Well, there's a suspension. No. There is a process set forth in the agreement. You're suspended 50 games for a first offense...

CAVUTO: Right.

MITCHELL: Then so on up the line. Three strikes and you're out.

CAVUTO: But what if it's someone who says, ah, I did use steroids back a few years ago; I haven't used them since? What should happen to that guy?

MITCHELL: Well, the point is this. That's why — one of the reasons I made the recommendation.

CAVUTO: Right.

MITCHELL: First, more than half the players mentioned in my report are no longer in baseball. So, he has no authority over them at all.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

MITCHELL: He couldn't discipline them if he wanted to.

Secondly, prior to 2005, there was no penalty for a first offense under the drug program, for a first positive drug test. So, under the law, you have to apply the law that existed when the act occurred. You don't apply the current law when you punish someone. It's what the law was at that time. And, at that time — remember, the offenses in my report are two to nine years old.

For many, indeed for most of the cases, there wasn't a penalty provision. So...

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you this, Senator. If you don't punish those who are on the list or it's dated far back, should — if they continue to play, those who are still playing...


CAVUTO: ... should they be eligible for the Hall of Fame?

MITCHELL: Oh, that's for people other than me to make. Listen...

CAVUTO: But you're a big fan. You're a big fan.

MITCHELL: I am a big fan, but I also...

CAVUTO: Would you?

MITCHELL: I'm a big fan of restraint in what you do. I was asked to conduct an inquiry and to make a report.

One of the great dangers in these independent investigations, of which I have conducted several, is you then extend or overreach what your assignment is. I don't make decisions on the Hall of Fame. I don't make any decisions beyond those I have made.

And my — my report met the mandate that I was given. I was asked to look into it, provide a report that was accurate, fair, and thorough. That's what I did.

From now on, that action and others belongs to others. And I should not...

CAVUTO: But would you, as a fan, Senator, wince at Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds going to Cooperstown?

MITCHELL: You are a master at asking the same question in different ways.


CAVUTO: Five times, right?


Those are decisions for others to make, not me.


In the game of P.R., as you know, Senator...


CAVUTO: ... now you have got a lot of reputations that have been sullied...


CAVUTO: ... and many of those players insisting, unfairly.

What if it turns out that the information you relied on from a couple of key guys , who have some nefarious pasts, tends to be unreliable? Would you be willing to come back and say, I'm sorry?

MITCHELL: We made every effort to get truthful testimony. Much of it is corroborated, some of it by admissions from players. There are several players who said to us, yes, he did sell us drugs, as he said he did. There are a lot of documents. There are other contemporaneous statements made.

We made every effort...

CAVUTO: But some of them are claiming that the drugs that they got, they didn't think were drugs, right?

MITCHELL: I haven't heard that story.

CAVUTO: Your facial expression said it all.

MITCHELL: I haven't heard that story.

CAVUTO: All right. But you're saying that they had every opportunity.

MITCHELL: They did.

CAVUTO: They missed the opportunity to talk to you.

MITCHELL: They would not come in and talk to me.

CAVUTO: All right.

So, what does the union have to do now? Let's say, leaving Selig out of it, if you are Don Fehr, what do you do?

MITCHELL: I think what he should do is what he did in 2002, what he has done in the five years since. It's that — work with the commissioner and the clubs to adopt recommendations that will provide the highest level of deterrence to future use of these and other substances.

And an important part of this — I want to emphasize this — not just drug testing. That's very important. It is a critical component, but it's clear, worldwide, that you have to have a capacity to investigate for allegations that occur outside the drug testing program. That's one of our major recommendations.

Secondly, it has to be independent.

And, third, it has to be adaptable.

CAVUTO: So, baseball could have no control over these independent agencies?

MITCHELL: That's right. That's right.

CAVUTO: Which is the case now, which makes it kind of the fox guarding the henhouse, right?

MITCHELL: But it's not just baseball.

Every professional sport in the United States controls their program the same way as baseball, for understandable reasons. The sports that don't are like the Olympics, where the players are not organized in collective bargaining and represented by unions. And so they can impose any program that they want.

But, under the law in the United States for the past 21 years, drug testing in the workplace has to be collectively bargained with the union. So, it's a different circumstance.

CAVUTO: I got you.

Sir, it is very possible that Barry Bonds could go to jail on this whole issue. And I know the issue here is potentially lying to a grand jury, perjury...


CAVUTO: ...it's a whole separate issue. But, nonetheless, that could land him in the clink, and all of these other guys could get off scot-free.

MITCHELL: Well, that's a matter that is of course completely unrelated to our investigation. That criminal...

CAVUTO: Well, it's basically related in this respect, Senator, to steroids.


But the criminal investigation there began long before our investigation. It has nothing to do with what we're doing. I had nothing to do with Barry Bonds. I have never met or talked to him. I have nothing to do with his indictment.

In fact, I said in my report that, of all the players who declined to talk with me, his refusal was the most understandable, because he was under criminal investigation.

CAVUTO: He was in the middle of an investigation.

MITCHELL: That's right.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you, Senator.

Max Baucus of the Senate Finance Committee wants to look into any ties between this activity and potential tax evasion. He has requested information from you. I don't know exactly what. Have you gotten back to him? I know it's still early.

MITCHELL: No. In fact, I have just seen the letter a short time ago. I think the letter just came in a couple of hours ago.

CAVUTO: What is he tying in steroid use with tax evasion?

MITCHELL: I'm not sure of this, because I haven't read the letter. I was just shown a copy of it, but I haven't read it through carefully.

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

MITCHELL: I believe it relates to the question of the importation into the United States of these illegal steroids and the possible evasion of taxes by people who are engaged in that trade.

CAVUTO: I see.

MITCHELL: As you know, there have been two major undertakings by the DEA and other federal agents attempting to combat the illegal importation of steroid materials from Mexico and China and other places around the world.

CAVUTO: Hence, evading the taxes.

MITCHELL: I believe that's it.

CAVUTO: That, I understand.


CAVUTO: Let me ask you, what do you think of Donald Fehr? What kind of a job has he done?

MITCHELL: Well, he has represented his constituents effectively. He's tried hard to work on their behalf. I don't agree with all of his decisions, obviously. But...

CAVUTO: He says he didn't get an advance report.

MITCHELL: He didn't. Well, he got one hour.

But I had requests from about everybody in North America for an advanced copy. And the only one I gave more than one hour — he's the only one who got an hour. The commissioner got more time, because, under the law, the commissioner is required to keep confidential certain information under the drug program.

And he insisted on the right to review the report to make sure that I did not inadvertently cause him to violate the confidentiality provisions. That's the only review that occurred. I had members of Congress, I had a lot of members of the press — no offense — who wanted advanced copies.


CAVUTO: Well, those press guys are even worse, aren't they? All right.

MITCHELL: Well, they're tough.

CAVUTO: Senator George Mitchell, thank you very much. I know you are going to be a little busy these next few days. We appreciate very much your stopping by.

MITCHELL: Thanks, Neil.

CAVUTO: The report is out, the fallout fast and furious.


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