- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today, Roger Clemens and former trainer Brian McNamee give much-anticipated steroid testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Back up a moment, many insist: What priority of Congress is this? The answer is that Major League Baseball benefits from too much public largesse, and shapes the views of too many young people, to be held to anything other than an exemplary standard. MLB still seems to think it can obfuscate the steroid era — an era of cheating — into the history books. Not so. The age of Cal Ripken this is not.

Recalling the pitiful spectacle of Part One of these steroid hearings in mid-January, the contrary premise of “What priority?” proved true: Lawmakers were not nearly tough enough. A few artful dodges from Commissioner Bud Selig and Players Union chief Donald Fehr sent Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, California Democrat, and his colleagues — most of whom were unprepared and poorly briefed — packing. Strange indeed for a committee chairman known and feared for his toughness and resolution. MLB enjoys an antitrust exemption; it enjoys lavish public stadium subsidies; and it is imbued with intangibles like public trust and the admiration of the young. These make steroids a substantial congressional prerogative.

Committee members could not even get Mr. Selig and Mr. Fehr straight on the subject of whether an adequate human-growth-hormone test exists. The World Doping Agency claimed that it does; MLB contends otherwise. Most importantly, no commitment to a truly comprehensive testing regime emerged from the hearing. Mr. Selig, unscathed, was soon rewarded with a contract extension through 2012 in a clear nod to his success. No one seemed much perturbed that Mr. Selig had called former Sen. George Mitchell’s December steroid report “a call to action,” vowing, “I will act,” after presiding over the steroid era in its entirety.

We don’t know whether Roger Clemens is an aggrieved innocent or a brazen liar. Mr. McNamee claims to have administered “The Rocket” performance-enhancing substances and to have the syringes and gauze pads with Mr. Clemens’ DNA to prove it; Mr. Clemens vehemently denies the accusation. The point of today’s hearing is to find answers to this and related questions. Let no one doubt that finding the answer is clearly in the public interest.

“Cheating” was how Orioles great Cal Ripken described steroid use three years ago in an otherwise sympathetic rumination on his former teammate, Rafael Palmeiro, to the Baltimore Sun three years ago. If Raffy did it, Mr. Ripken reasoned, he should own up and seek an apology.

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