- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It’s time for baseball to clear the air on steroids. A cloud has lingered for too long on the subject. Since baseball hasn’t recognized this fact yet, the House Government Reform Committee is forcing it to with subpoenas for the likes of sluggers Jason Giambi and Mark McGwire, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and union boss Don Fehr. The hearings are tomorrow. We hope everyone cooperates.

In December, we took the commissioner at his word when he said, “I understand the need for swift and resolute action.” But here we are, three months later, and it took a subpoena for so much as a copy of baseball’s steroids policy. Baseball is still hoping the steroid scandal will blow over, but it won’t.

The committee’s intent is straightforward. “What we’d like baseball to do is admit they have a problem, show what they are doing to fix it and make sure that we can set the record straight for young people,” committee Chairman Tom Davis said Sunday on “Meet the Press.” There’s no talk of further prosecutions, nor of pulling baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Nonetheless, certain famous commentators are attacking Mr. Davis over the subpoenas. Stanley Brand, representing Major League Baseball, the players’ association and the club owners, has reportedly questioned the committee’s jurisdiction, even though investigating an alleged rash of federal law-breaking in a sport enjoying antitrust exemption is well within its charge. It’s understandable that commentators and lawyers should protest: They think they’re protecting baseball’s best interests. They aren’t. Only a full accounting will do.

It’s true that there’s a whiff of the House Committee on Un-American Activities about subpoenaing players and officials for unwelcome, pointed questions, but we’re still at a point where the public record is too thin to know exactly what is going on. All we have is leaked grand jury testimony in the BALCO case and an error-ridden, self-promoting book by the dubious Jose Canseco.

In the meantime, we know three things. First, in 1991, Congress designated steroids as Schedule III drugs under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. That made the use and distribution of steroids for non-medical purposes a federal offense. Second, we know that allegations abound over rampant steroid use in Major League Baseball. Players and coaches have repeatedly estimated that between 10 percent and 30 percent of all MLB players use steroids. Third, we know that young athletes abuse steroids. Charles Yesalis, a leading authority on steroid use and a professor of health policy and administration at Penn State, has estimated that half a million or more youths have abused steroids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse accepts that figure.

Those facts alone give Major League Baseball a golden opportunity to set its record straight. Regrettably, it didn’t want that opportunity. Now that Mr. Davis has forced the issue, it’s time for a full accounting.

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