And the point is?

Committee to accomplish only grandstanding

On congressional hearing

First Word

December 29, 2007|By PETER SCHMUCK

Let's get something straight right from the beginning. I'm generally not a big fan of sports-related congressional hearings, though I'll make an exception if they call one to examine the use of sports-related congressional hearings for blatantly political purposes.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is at it again, scheduling a hearing on baseball's steroid scandal for Jan. 15.

This is largely the same committee that gave you the infamous March 17, 2005, hearing in which Rafael Palmeiro defiantly poked his finger at the assembled representatives and Mark McGwire nearly came to tears. It is also the same committee that agreed the night before that no one would try to force the players to address the one question everyone wanted answered.

Don't know about you, but I kind of assumed at the time that the whole point of summoning players to Washington was to ask them under oath whether they had ever used steroids, but Republican committee chair Tom Davis (who has since been replaced by Democrat Henry Waxman) basically shouted down attempts by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings to force McGwire to answer the question or take the Fifth.

Clearly, the committee learned a lesson from that embarrassing little episode, because no players are going to be called to testify Jan. 15. Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell is on the guest list, along with baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players association chief Donald Fehr.

Can't wait. What are they going to do, have Mitchell read passages from his 409-page report on the steroid scandal? Maybe do a book signing in the Rotunda?

I wonder whether Mitchell gets to bill Major League Baseball by the hour for this charade, or whether his coming testimony was included in the estimated $20 million he charged Selig to write that glorified term paper on steroids and human growth hormone. He must be wondering why it took him so long to find a better racket than Congress.

Here's all you need to know about this latest exercise in no-risk political grandstanding. The reason the committee is not going to call any players to testify is because, well, that would require the legislators and their aides to actually put forth an effort to get to the heart of a pretty important societal problem.

"If we went back to every player, we would have to do research every morning, noon and night," Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press the other day. "There's no way, in my judgment, we're going to be able to focus on the past. Only a real court can do that, in my judgment."

As opposed to a kangaroo court made up of politicians who want to go on record during an election year proclaiming they are - gasp! - against steroids and are outraged that the national pastime was slow to grasp the scope of its performance-enhancement problem?

Don't you just love listening to our legislators rail at baseball and the other sports for being asleep at the switch on steroids after it was Congress that deregulated the supplement industry in 1994 and played a huge role in the artificial bulking up of American athletes?

That's right. If you look at the list of substances banned under baseball's enhanced drug program, you'll find several that didn't raise a congressional eyebrow 13 years ago when they were included among the "dietary supplements" no longer under the direct supervision of the Food and Drug Administration.

Well, we wouldn't want to let the facts get in the way of another round of political opportunism.

"We need to take a good, hard, close look at this," Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, told AP on Thursday.

Earth to the gentleman from Massachusetts: Where exactly have you been the past decade or so?

And, while we're on the subject, if you really wanted to take a good, hard, close look at something, you might want to call some witnesses who might have some first-hand information.

Here's a thought: Because Roger Clemens has embarked on a campaign to clear his name after being implicated in the Mitchell Report, why not invite him to the Jan. 15 hearing to take a polygraph test right there in front of God and C-SPAN?

If he's lying, he gets the public recrimination he deserves. If he's not, then MLB needs to have a little ceremony and set fire to a copy of the Mitchell Report and apologize to America for wasting our time (and, really, our money) on that self-defeating boondoggle.

Don't write. I know Clemens can't be coerced to take a lie detector test, but because he's supposedly completely innocent of the outrageous charges against him, I'm pretty sure he'd volunteer to go on the box to clear himself once and for all.

Now there's a congressional hearing I'd pay to see.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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