Missing from Mitchell Recommendations: Start Prevention Earlier

by Greg in

george-mitchell-richard-drew-ap.jpgHow do you stop steroid use in baseball? Start preventing its use much earlier in a player's career. I got around this weekend to reading former Sen. George Mitchell's report to the baseball commissioner on his investigation into the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing substances in major league baseball.

I am a great admirer of Sen. Michell. His book about negotiating a settlement in Northern Ireland, Making Peace, is inspirational. A more credible investigator for baseball could not have been found. But I think his 311-page report (plus appendices) missed an important opportunity to take more of a public health approach to this public health problem. In other words, why is there not more of a focus on prevention -- starting earlier in baseball at the high school and college level.

Mitchell is right to recommend investigations, an education program and testing, but I think the education program section falls short. It speaks of major leaguers as role models for young players, which is true, but I believe the three-part recommendations should be extended beyond the MLB to the NCAA, summer leagues and high school. Now, admittedly, I am ignorant of what college baseball already does with respect to stopping steroid use, but I feel the Mitchell Report could have beefed up its recommendations on the need to start prevention earlier.

Baseball America is the only news coverage and analysis that has picked up on implications of the Mitchell Report on leagues prior to the MLB.

The Cape Cod Baseball League is a living monument to the role of developing young talent into tomorrow's major leaguers. As a New England man, Sen. Mitchell probably has taken in a Cape game or two. The talent and culture we see in major college baseball, including competitive summer leagues, are harbingers of what we will see in the Major Leagues soon enough. The Cape League is a pipeline to the Bigs.

In fact, Mo Vaughn, Ron Villone and other Cape Cod Baseball League greats are implicated in the Mitchell Report. On page 158, the Orioles' Brian Roberts (Chatham '98), son of the Cotuit Kettleers field manager, is reported to have used steroids.

Use of steroids and performance enhancing substances begin before the MLB -- just like tobacco use. The Cape League has struggled to enforce its own tobacco use policy as others have reported before. So asking the league to enforce a steroid ban would also be difficult.

The Mitchell report does say that there is a decline in steroid use in high schools (SR-8) but it goes on to say that thousands of high school aged young people still use steroids (SR-22).