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Sports Illustrated would say later that Mr. Bush’s speech “set the societal agenda.”

Others say the Bush speech set a tenor that the rest of the federal bureaucracy would abide by when it went after stars such as Barry Bonds, but argue that it was congressional investigations and the Justice Department’s prosecutions that forces baseball’s hand.


Mr. Davis, the former congressman who headed the hearings, said having Congress get involved put pressure on baseball to act and gave the owners and league officials the cover they needed to push the labor unions into making a deal. He said it was clear to baseball that if MLB didn’t take steps, Congress would intervene.

“When we brought it up originally, we were fought tooth-and-nail by the baseball establishment — owners, presidents, unions, everybody,” Mr. Davis said. “After the hearings [Commissioner Bud] Selig called up and said thanks a lot. He said this was tough for us, but we got through it. We all wanted it cleaned up.”

Outside of Congress, the administration was ramping up its own investigative machine.

Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Jeff Novitzky began an investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) and Barry Bonds, who holds the two most important home-run records (homers in a season and in a career) but has been accused earning them while on PEDs.

Bonds would be convicted of obstruction of justice in 2011 stemming from accusations that he lied to investigators when he denied using PEDs.

The Justice Department also pursued Roger Clemens, one of baseball’s most decorated pitchers, on charges of lying to Congress after his 2008 testimony to Mr. Davis‘ committee. That snakebit prosecution ended with Clemens’ acquittal.

Matt Welch, editor in chief of Reason magazine, who has written on baseball and the government, said the government made a point of going after high-profile end-user players — an important strategic decision.

“That really showed this was about making examples. That was explicit in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address. This was all about making examples,” he said.

He said he is conflicted by the efforts. As a baseball fan, he said, he can think of other reasons the records ballooned when they did, including smaller ballparks and league expansion, which traditionally is thought to benefit offense by watering down pitching talent.

Still, he said, if the league decides it wants to clean up, he is fine with that.

Professor John Nauright, co-director of the Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society at George Mason University, said governments around the globe have pushed the steroid issue, from Canada’s investigation after its sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, to the French government investigating cycling after the 1998 Tour de France.

American officials were somewhat late to act, even as ballplayers’ physiques ballooned and hitting records fell.

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