Today's Papers

Age of Steroids

The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times lead with the long-awaited report by former Sen. George Mitchell that decries the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and involves players from all 30 teams. USA Todaygoes across the top of its front page with the 20-month investigation and says yesterday was “one of the darkest days in baseball history.” The Wall Street Journal also leads its world-wide newsbox with the report but says it isn’t likely to “affect baseball in the long term.” All the papers focus on the players who are named in the 409-page document, and everyone agrees the most prominent player in the report is superstar pitcher Roger Clemens. But the papers disagree on the number of current and former players named in the report. The LAT says 86 were listed “as drug users,” the NYT puts the number linked to performance-enhancing drugs at 89, while the WSJ estimates “about 80,” USAT says 90, and the WP goes with 91. Among those listed, there were around 30 All-Stars and 10 most valuable players.

Mitchell was sure to emphasize that “everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades” is to blame for what he described as “baseball’s steroids era.” The report, which apparently cost about $20 million, said owners were often more concerned about “economic issues” than monitoring drug abuse. It also criticized Commissioner Bud Selig and the players’ union for not dealing with the problem in the early days and allowing the use of performance-enhancing drugs to become “widespread.” Although testing has improved the situation, many players have now switched to human growth hormone, which is harder to detect. The report had several specific recommendations, including the adoption of an independent drug-testing program and establishing a unit to investigate allegations of drug use.

Mitchell admitted that his investigation was hampered by a lack of cooperation as only two current players agreed to sit down for an interview. Regardless, Mitchell said Selig should grant most of the players in the report amnesty, and just concentrate on what can be done to improve the situation in the future. But Selig said he would examine each case before deciding whether any suspensions should be imposed.

The report was based on interviews with more than 700 people and thousands of pages of documents. But some of the most damning evidence was provided by a former Mets clubhouse attendant and a strength coach. The Post is the most skeptical of the report itself, saying that “much of the information … was old, and merely rehashed previous media reports.” In a separate Page One analysis, the Post says that even if all the recommendations are implemented, the drug-testing “program still could fall short of international standards,” and many doubt there will be any real changes.

Everyone cites Clemens’ attorney denying the claims and criticizing the report for permanently tarnishing the reputation of so many players. The WSJ notes that although prosecutors could try to pursue criminal charges against specific players, they would have to overcome “a variety of hurdles.” But there could be other long-term repercussions, and USAT notes that several Hall of Fame voters have said they won’t vote for players that were included in the report. Although it could personally affect players, the industry doesn’t have much to worry about because sponsors aren’t likely to go anywhere, says the WSJ.

In other news, the WP fronts word that the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is under investigation from several fronts for allegations of mismanagement, financial wrongdoings, retaliatory firings, discrimination, and “sustained patterns of inappropriate behavior.” Federal prosecutors have already presented evidence to a grand jury, a House committee is also investigating allegations, and so are oversight bodies of the Army as well as the executive branch. One of the main issues has to do with overtime pay that has allowed 10 SIGIR employees to earn more than $250,000 each, including one who claimed 1,200 hours of overtime and earned almost $350,000. The FBI is also looking into whether officials regularly checked their employees’ e-mail accounts without proper authorization.

The NYT fronts word from “senior officials from three countries” that say investigators have found a link between al-Qaida in Iraq and the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow earlier this year. If this turns out to be true, it would mark the first time that the group has been involved in a terrorist attack outside the Middle East. No one would disclose exactly how the group might have been involved but one American official said that “the event is best viewed as AQI-related, rather than AQI-directed.”

The LAT fronts a dispatch from Tijuana and reports that U.S. border patrol agents have been shooting canisters of pepper spray and tear gas into “densely populated Mexican border neighborhoods” to push back increasingly aggressive smugglers. The smugglers routinely throw rocks at border agents, who had previously responded by using pepper spray directly on the culprits. But as the aggression escalates, and the smugglers become more sophisticated, agents have blanketed entire neighborhoods with the canisters, causing evacuations as well as panicked visits to the hospital by affected residents.

The WSJ goes inside with a recent survey that found many are willing to marry for money. About two-thirds of the women surveyed, and 50 percent of the men, said they’d do it. So, how much money does it take? Women in their 20s said $2.5 million. The figure goes down when women reach their 30s and would marry for $1.1 million, but then goes back up to $2.2 million for those in their 40s. Men had slightly cheaper requirements, with an average “asking price” of $1.2 million.

Friday potty humor: A correction from the NYT: “A brief art review in Weekend on May 8, 1987 … misstated the location of a small painting. … It was displayed in the vitrine near the receptionist’s desk, not the latrine.”