Mitchell Report links former Braves
Justice, Sheffield and others named in 21-month investigation
ATLANTA -- Braves team president John Schuerholz has been involved in Major League Baseball for nearly 40 years. Over the course of the past decade, he has been troubled by the fact that performance-enhancing drugs have cast a dark cloud over a game that he and countless others dearly love.
But with Thursday afternoon's release of the much-anticipated Mitchell Report, which didn't implicate any current Braves, Schuerholz is hopeful that Major League Baseball has allowed itself an opportunity to move forward in the attempt to escape what history will remember as "The Steroid Era."
"With the release of Senator Mitchell's report and Commissioner Selig's comments on behalf of Major League Baseball, we mark a significant moment in baseball history," Schuerholz said in the club's released statement.
"For too long, all of us -- players, teams, media and especially our great fans -- have had to hear and read constantly about the issue of use and abuse of performance-enhancing substances.
"We believe the Mitchell Report will allow us to move forward and continue the progress we have seen since Major League Baseball's drug-testing program began in 2002.
"Now we can look forward to a new day in baseball when we can focus on and enjoy this great game and the talented players who play it."
Several high-profile, superstar-caliber players were among those named in the Mitchell Report, the product of a 21-month, multimillion dollar investigation that could shape decisions, prompt punitive actions against active players, and usher in the next era of the sport.
While introducing this Report, Mitchell said that each of Major League Baseball's 30 teams had a link to players that were included. The former Braves implicated are David Justice, Gary Sheffield, Darren Holmes, John Rocker, Paul Byrd, Mike Stanton, Matt Franco, Denny Neagle, Todd Pratt and Kent Mercker.
Within this Report, the only former Braves to be using performance-enhancing drugs during their time in Atlanta were Sheffield, who was linked to BALCO, and Byrd, who has admitted to using human growth hormone (HGH) to treat a tumor on his pituitary gland. Holmes is included because he has admitted receiving a shipment of HGH in October 2003, which was his final season with the Braves and in baseball.
Justice's inclusion likely provided the biggest surprise to Braves fans, who have fond memories of his 1990 National League Rookie of the Year campaign and the World Series-clinching homer he hit at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1995. He played in Atlanta from 1989-96.
Still, Chipper Jones, who considered Justice to be one of his earliest big league mentors, remains skeptical about the allegations made against his former teammate and some of the other Major Leaguers who were implicated in this Report.
"Until all is heard, I reserve judgment," Jones said. "But to say I was shocked to hear [Justice's] name is definitely an understatement."
Free agent Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees, Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros, Eric Gagne of the Milwaukee Brewers and Paul Lo Duca of the Washington Nationals were among the most prominent former and current All-Stars to be mentioned in the lengthy report, which spans 311 pages, plus multiple exhibits, including evidence of signed checks, handwritten notes and shipping receipts.
The players listed in the paragraph above are by no means the only players listed in the report, but in MLB.com's initial review of the document, those names stood out by their notoriety. Our coverage will continue minute-by-minute through the course of the proceedings and for the foreseeable future thereafter, but the entire report is available for viewing here at MLB.com.
After flying back to Atlanta from his Texas ranch on Thursday afternoon, Jones was dismayed with the presumption of guilt already being levied by some talk radio hosts. Once he got to his home and had a chance to read some of the Report, he was further upset about the fact that many had already rushed to judgment on some players, who were included based simply on the testimony of others.
Mitchell did provide every implicated player a chance to speak to him. But nearly all of them declined.
"I just think there are a ton of holes in this thing and I dare say the player's union is going to attack," Jones said. "I can't imagine that a player's image being tarnished is going to be taken lightly without the presence of documentation. ... There's just too much gray area."
While the Report detailed drug use in baseball by naming those accused, it also contained 19 separate recommendations for the sport to move forward from this point, proceeding after a culture of steroids and performance enhancement grew exponentially in the late 1990s.
The Mitchell Report named both Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association in assigning blame, charging leadership -- from the Commissioner to club owners and general managers -- for allowing the issue to proliferate.
Former National League MVP and current Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton chose not to watch any of the Mitchell Report proceedings on Thursday. But when informed of some of its contents, he reacted in the same dismayed manner as the many others, who maybe didn't want their long-standing skepticism strengthened by this Report.
"I think it's sad," Pendleton said. "If any of it's true, I think it's sad."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.