Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rep. John Yarmuth questions Sen. Geeorge Mitchell

From yesterday's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing on Illegal Steroid Use by Major League Baseball Athletes:
YARMUTH: Thank you, Senator, for your testimony and for your report, although I must say, as the representative of Louisville, Kentucky, I'm disappointed the report didn't deal with the performance-enhancing qualities of the Louisville Slugger. I'm sure you will take that up at a further time.

MITCHELL: There's been a lot of publicity and speculation about bats in recent years, as you know.

YARMUTH: Yes. But I do want to focus on the issue of the concept of performance-enhancing, because you mentioned in your testimony, you say the players apparently believed -- they took HGH because they apparently believed that it enhanced their ability to recover from injuries and to combat fatigue.

And I think I'm focused, as some of the other members are, Congressman Cummings and others, on the impact, the influence on our young people and I'm sure that our young people are looking at this whole issue of performance enhancement and looking at Barry Bonds and some of the other players who have been named and saying "I could hit more homeruns, I can throw faster pitches."

And I'm sure you're familiar with the op-ed piece that was in the "New York Times" right after your report came out, a sociologist and a statistician analyzed all the players mentioned in your report and found out that there was no discernable statistical difference between their performance before and after they were identified as having taken these enhancement substances and, in fact, there was a slight drop-off, if anything.

So I'm wondering whether, in the course of your investigation, you felt that we really knew enough about what these substances really did, because in terms of providing education for our kids. If, in fact, there is no performance, I mean, in terms of batting average or ERA or those types of statistics, maybe the kids would be less prone to use them if we really found out that there wasn't any quantitative difference in their performance.

Would you comment on that, please?

MITCHELL: I believe that the subject is very complicated and as often happens in life, a phrase has entered into the universe of vocabulary of our society -- performance-enhancing substances.

If you look at and talk to the players who use them, you find that the motives, while they ultimately involve performance, don't always do so in an immediate sense. A lot of it is recovery time, recovery from injury, recovery from strenuous workouts, the ability to work out more often. A lot of it is psychological, "It made me feel good."

Each of us is familiar with that effect. When you walk in to give a speech before 5,000 people at a convention, if you're feeling good, you're going to do a much better job than if you're not. There is a huge placebo effect all throughout American medicine, not just in terms of athletes or performance-enhancing substances.

So I think the subject is more complicated than a simple phrase represents.

However, I think there is also, the other side, substantial evidence that in at least some individual cases, performance was enhanced as a consequence. It might have been psychological, it might have been recovery.

I happen to think, having tried to play baseball myself as a young man, that anybody who makes it to the major leagues is a highly talented person. You have to be a great athlete to get to the major leagues in any event.

So I don't think anybody who gets to the big leagues needs a steroid or some other drug to be able to hit or throw or field a baseball. What they were looking for was a competitive advantage in a highly competitive situation.

In my report, we quote one player who said one of the biggest gripes is "This other guy's taking steroids and he's taken my spot on the roster." And so I think it's more complicated than the phrase itself suggests and as so often happens in life, the motives of the individuals who take them are not always identical.

Indeed, some of them cite different reasons for taking different substances.

YARMUTH: Thank you, Senator.

I yield back.

No comments: