Legacy of Mitchell Report lives on

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York, April 21,...

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York, April 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:11 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Baseball commissioner Bud Selig still loves the Mitchell report like a nearly five-year-old son.

Union head Michael Weiner tees off on the thing like Prince Fielder in the home run derby.

And it's easy to roll your eyes at the whole deal, especially after watching Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun frolick in the Major League Baseball all-star game this week, just five months after beating a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test.

But there's no debating the legacy of the 21-month investigation into the use of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone in the sport.

It opened a big league can of worms.

"The Mitchell report was extremely important for the light it shed on the problems of drugs in the game," said London lawyer Richard McLaren, the longtime doping expert and sport dispute arbitrator whose work was at the heart of that ground-breaking 409-page report in 2007.

"Baseball invested in it. They're probably the best of the bunch right now. They put in $20 million and it's an expense not every sport is able to handle."

You can feel the echo of the process today, with Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson telling Sport Illustrated just last week the achievements of his friend Alex Rodriguez have been clouded, in his mind, by the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

But in the wake of Braun and the Roger Clemens trial, there's still a sense an outstanding lawyer can knock down any possible sanctions and the league and union will always be naturally at odds.

"They can work together," McLaren said, "and they have. The Braun case is an example. Six weeks ago, the league and the player's association changed the (language of the) rule (that provided Braun with a loophole to escape suspension).

"That can't happen again."

Drug use will never be completely driven out of the game.

"There are a lot of players being caught in the minor leagues," McLaren said. "I don't have the exact numbers, but you're hearing of something like one player being caught every two weeks or so. It's around 25 over the course of the year.

"You're never going to catch everyone. They're will always be those who beat the system."

But the idea has always been to make it harder for cheaters to evade detection.

McLaren doesn't anticipate much in the way of ground-shaking drug scandals at the upcoming Olympics in London, England. He's heading to Glasgow, Scotland ahead of the Games to present a paper on the athlete's biological passport, the next evolution in leveling the playing field.

"WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) has done a lot of out-of-competition testing ahead of the Olympics," he said. "The international federations don't want (scandals). They want to save themselves the embarrassment of a positive test."

It's not only about the athletes.

Take the Lance Armstrong situation at the moment.

Three doctors close to the famous cyclist were hit hard on charges of doping conspiracy by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the body against which Armstrong just re-filed his own lawsuit.

"The three doctors accepted lifetime bans," McLaren said. "They're permanently ineligible to receive credentials and that's a powerful statement being made."

Cheating, of course, isn't limited simply to drugs and enhancing performance.

Gambling, McLaren said, has become a tremendous problem in the world of sports, the most glaring examples recently found in Italian pro soccer. Keeping Pete Rose out of the baseball hall of fame hasn't stopped it.

"It's not just players betting on the outcome and match-fixing, it could be simply parts of games that are called into question," McLaren said, "and a lot of it happens through off-shore betting, which is more difficult to monitor. The regulated companies like Betfair (in the United Kingdom) work with us, informing us when there's an irregularity in the money."

Which brings us, invariably, back to the beginning and baseball again.

There's always big money at stake for cheats in sports.

And it takes massive amounts of dough - and considerable thought - to attempt to shut it down.

RICHARD MCLAREN

(The London lawyer and sports dispute arbitrator weighs in on the fight against cheating athletes)

On how he can still enjoy sports given his constant exposure to the unseemly side of it.

"Not every name is released, not everyone gets caught. I know more than the public (who the suspected cheaters are) and the way I do it is if those people I know are involved in an event, I usually turn off the TV and don't watch it."

On Reggie Jackson's comments to Sports Illustrated that no Hall of Famers will show up at Cooperstown if the drug cheats from the steroid era are inducted.

"Athlete-to-athlete interaction is extremely important. It can have an impact."

His thoughts on baseball union head Michael Weiner, who has no use for the Mitchell Report.

"I've known him (for 20 years) since I was involved with salary arbitration in baseball. He's a very astute individual. The union is in place to protect its players and that's his mandate."

On his role at the upcoming Olympics in London, England.

"I'm not an arbiter this time around. I'll be there for the Opening Ceremonies and the first few days, but then I'll be back here up in Grand Bend watching it on TV."

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RyanAtLFPress


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