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Mitchell report could spark move to rid baseball of steroids

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The sport was slow to see the crisis coming, said Mitchell. He made a number of recommendations that he said would help bring baseball's antidrug regime up to world standards, if implemented.

Among Mitchell's proposed changes: aggressive investigation of nontesting evidence of drug possession or use; more cooperation with law enforcement authorities; greatly improved off-season random testing; and the outsourcing of test administration to an independent agency.

The players' union must approve a number of the changes, noted Mitchell. But "I believe that the principal beneficiaries of these reforms will be the majority of major league players who play clean and follow the rules," Mitchell concluded in his report. "These players have been harmed by having to play against violators who gained an unfair advantage.... The clean major league players deserve far better than they have had to endure."

Mitchell's recommendations are in line with the opinion of many national and international testing officials and experts, who deem baseball's current test regimen to be outdated and easy to fool.

"The program is almost as if it were designed not to catch the folks that are doing this," says Dick Pound, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency in Montreal.

One of Mr. Pound's principal objections is that baseball's off-season drug tests are so few and far between that for all practical purposes the winter is free play for drug cheats.

Yet the physical improvement wrought by steroids can persist for up to four or five years, after the detectable residue of the drug itself has left the system, he says. For that reason, any player who resorted to them during the season, when testing is more random and widespread, is "an idiot," says Pound.

"If you get caught during the season, you've actually failed two tests – the dope test and an IQ test," he says.

Indeed, Mitchell underscored the need for adequate year-round, unannounced testing. But he also emphasized the importance of investigations based on evidence other than positive tests – phone records, receipts, and testimony from witnesses, for example.

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