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My Final Thoughts on The Mitchell Report

December 18, 2007 02:13 PM

I finished the Mitchell Report. I didn't like it and find that it does not establish its claims objectively. I particularly object to the naming of players.

I fail to see any purpose that is served by naming players who are alleged to have used a performance enhancing drug. It drags the reader through unseemly characters and events that have little real bearing on the issues. Nearly all the players named have NOT tested positive for any of the substances alleged to be performance drugs. It would have been more responsible to have given more objective data by tabulating the number of players on drugs and when they used them and then gone on to develop the evidence that their performances were affected.

The report contains no objective evidence that the so-called 'performance enhancing' drugs actually enhance performance. So, we have some sleazy stories about players and drug dealers, but no evidence that there were any consequences for performance or player health.

So, first, I think the Mitchell Report fails in its first task to demonstrate or quantify drug use in MLB in a objective, measurable way. No scientist can go through the report and gain any data of use.

Second, it does not support its claim that players suffer health problems as a result of drug use. I searched for a table that listed injuries or poor health as a result of drug use and found nothing.

Third, it does not establish or quantify any evidence of enhanced performance. Thus, it does make the case for the oft-repeated mantra that users are cheaters and gain an advantage over 'clean' players, his term for non-users. Where are the data that would be required to measure use in MLB so that one could do the empirical analysis? Where is the evidence for the claims of enhanced performance?

Fourth, it does not note the relative use of the various drugs in a quantifiable manner. How many used steroids and how many used HGH? From my reading, it appears that most of the HGH and possibly the steroid users were injured and trying to speed their recovery. Why shouldn't injured players have access to these drugs? Everyone else does.

If it were primarily injured or aging players that used them, then how could drugs have increased hitting? It would be more likely that steroid use would show a correlation with poor rather than superior performance. This is the selection problem; if the walking wounded are using them more than others, use would be correlated with poor performance.

The media reporting is almost solely focused on naming players and omits the crucial questions that concern performance and health. I think the Mitchell Report would have had little impact had the player's names not been listed.

Nearly all of the evidence of use comes from two persons, Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee, both of whom are under plea bargains. There are cancelled checks which do support some allegations. So, some clearly are true.

I could find no evidence of a clear performance gain achieved by any athlete using or claimed to have used drugs. Not a shred. Here is some of Mitchell's so-called evidence on that primary issue.

Ken Caminiti made the All Star Team and credits his performance to steroids. This is merely an anecdote. Players make the All Star Team some years and not in others. How many other users accomplished this or a similar goal?

The old story about Mark McGwire, whose privacy was invaded when a reporter went through his locker, is mentioned. But, Mitchell fails to report that andro is completely ineffective in the promotion of muscle mass and has never been shown to enhance athletic performance.

Roger Clemens may or may not have used steroids. There is slight evidence to support that. Still, it is hard to believe he took them or took enough or that they worked. He is too fat to be such a hard trainer as he is known to be and be on steroids. He ought have had a better body composition if he used steroids. Moreover, he has never tested positive for them. So, I doubt he is a user. He denies the allegations strongly.

Mitchell described Chad Allen's characterization of Miadich's bad behavior, smashing items in the club house, as "roid rage". Is it really? I guess Mickey Mantle, whose attacks of the dugout water cooler were legendary, suffered roid rage too.

The conversations and personal opinions or characterizations drawn by the people Mitchell interviewed do not make for convincing or trustworthy evidence.

· Sports


I'm unconvinced "performance enhancing" drugs actually raise the upper limit of human performance. But we do know they improve recovery rates, so whatever gains might be made will certainly come faster as training regimes can be significantly compressed.

Jordan, that chart isn't proof, it's nonsense. Whomever's claiming it's proof of steroid use/performance enhancement assumes causation because that chart shows nothing about the players' training methods or coaching or the magnitude of the performance trends, and merely includes those alleged to be steroid users who improved their game (i.e. as a study it completely fails to control numerous independent variables). The basic argument is circular: these guys are using steroids because their performance improved, and their performance improved because they're using steroids. All we know is that some peoples' performance improved and some didn't. We don't know why.

M D Sisson, I couldn't agree more. Except maybe if you'd said the MLB should stop getting taxpayer funding. People who want "drug-free" players can't vote effectively with their dollars because baseball teams are getting "free" money from the government.

Posted by: Tuesday [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 19, 2007 12:16 AM

You articulated the issues with the Mitchell Report so well, I am envious. I would add two comments concerning the "steroid investigation."
1) The press is fond of using Barry Bonds as the poster child for enhanced performance due to steroids. While they use roughly a five year period, inevitably it is focused on 73 home runs for a hitter who had never reached 50 home runs prior to that. They never seem to make the connection that Roger Maris (one of my heroes) hit 61 home runs while never reaching 40 home runs, before or after. It was an amazing, magical, unexpected season. Of course, I realize 73 home runs is only a good story for that season. 73 home runs with steroids can keep a journalist busy for years.
2) Bud Selig, after Mitchell gave his remarks, said that it was important to stop steroid use in MLB to provide better role models for "young people" (or something like that). Obviously a political statement (like saying you're for education, against crime, and pro family). However, it would seem the best role models might be the parents. Then possibly a respected person in the community. After that possibly someone in education that has had a notable impact on some part of the world. Then maybe our political leaders, who could never stand up to the scrutiny they want to place on athlete/entertainers. I can't find a place for athletes as role models (I've known a few and they didn't seem very well rounded or overly interested in anything that required intelligence outside of their sport). If we are looking for athletes/entertainers to be role models, we have indeed begun the descent into a world described in the movie "Idiocracy."

Posted by: Jim [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 6:11 PM

And yet the received view is that this report is a great breakthrough, shedding much needed light on a situation "we all know to exist". I commented to someone at the office the other day, who had raised the issue of Clemons, that I thought the entire thing was bogus. He replied with words to the effect that yes indeed Clemons should be banned from baseball, not quite getting my point that the REPORT was bogus. Oh well. A sad state of affairs. The players' union should be shredding the report, but they don't have the spine for that.

Posted by: edthird [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 6:03 PM

While Dr. DeVaney and I come down on different sides of the steroids and performance issue, I agree with everything he says in this post. I found the naming of names to be shameful. If you have enough evidence to arrest or suspend these people for something, then do it. Otherwise this is just hearsay at this point. And to name some players, then say that they shouldn't be punished in any way is ridiculous and cowardly. If they shouldn't be disciplined, they shouldn't be named, period. And I am someone who has fought for years against the media and sports establishment hiding those I consider to be cheaters in various pro sports.

As to MDSISSON's comments (and Dr. DeVaney's) that athletes should be allowed access to these drugs like everyone else, I admit to having some sympathy for that position. But then let it be out in the open, so people don't have what I know to be a totally unrealistic view of what it takes (for many players) to excel in professional sports. It's the hypocrisy I find disgusting.

The only problem with that direction is that the competition becomes even more of one between biochemists, rather than athletes. Or I should say, even more than it is now.

But all in all, Dr. DeVaney's post seems right on the money to me.

Posted by: Charles Richardson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 5:49 PM

I saw this link today in reference to the Mitchell Report claiming to be proof of boosted stats...

Posted by: Jordan [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 3:25 PM

Art, you say, "Why shouldn't injured players have access to these drugs? Everyone else does." This has been my argument all along. You see in the report that most of the guys who took HGH did so to enhance recovery from an injury or from overtraining. These guys spend a significant part of their careers playing with injuries because they are expected to perform. I suspect they took HGH only because it was undetectable - not because it was the first choice. In most injuries, some form of testosterone is a better choice. It's also the better choice when an athlete is run down from overtraining or competing to intensely or too frequently. It's time the leagues and the IOC got the message that athletes are not "morality examples", but simply highly paid entertainers who are employees. They need to keep functioning at a high level day in and day out. Why should they be denied access to the very same medicines any of us would get instantly if we showed up on a Monday morning unable to perform our jobs fully because we are "run down."
(of course no one on an EF program gets run down...but you know what I mean...the rest of society :-)

Posted by: mdsisson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 18, 2007 3:17 PM

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