(CNSNews.com) - Baseball fans are disappointed with a report issued today by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell that names 88 top current and former professional baseball players as having been identified with or associated with the use of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs.
The list includes some of baseball's biggest recent stars: Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and the late Ken Caminiti.
"I'm extremely disappointed to think that some of these guys, who have great God-given natural ability, thought that they had to either even the playing field or jack up the playing field, and go put something into their bodies that they didn't need to be using," said Eric Gee, a radio sports talk show host at KNML in Albuquerque, N.M.
Mitchell, whose 20-month investigation into steroids use came at the behest of baseball commissioner Bud Selig, told reporters Thursday that the use of steroids in Major League Baseball was "widespread" and had gone on for a long time.
"The response by baseball was slow to develop and was initially ineffective," Mitchell said. "For many years, citing concerns for the privacy rights of the players, the Players Association opposed mandatory random drug testing of its members for steroids and other substances.
"But in 2002, the effort gained momentum after the clubs and the Players Association agreed to and adopted a mandatory random drug testing program. The current program has been effective in that detectable steroid use appears to have declined," Mitchell added.
"However, that does not mean that players have stopped using performance enhancing substances. Many players have shifted to human growth hormone, which is not detectable in any currently available urine test."
But Mitchell recommended against discipline for past violations of baseball's rules against using performance-enhancing substances "except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game," he said.
That angers fans like Gee.
"The Major League Baseball Players Association could certainly make things very difficult for them to do that (discipline players), but I do think there should be punishment, if not prosecution, for some of these guys."
Steroids use has been the bane of baseball in recent years, though athletes in many sports - from the NFL to cycling to track-and-field - have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs.
Just this week, the International Olympic Committee stripped track-and-field star Marion Jones of the gold and silver medals - and records - she won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After years of denying steroid use, Jones this year admitted lying to a federal grand jury.
Barry Bonds, the former San Francisco Giants slugger, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty last Friday to perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from his claim in a federal grand jury four years ago that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Rick Guter, trainer for Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls, said steroid use is totally unacceptable and he doesn't defend their use in any sport. But he also said it is easy to "beat-up" on elite athletes like Bonds or Jones, whose careers are very short in comparison with the rest of society and built around one thing - success.
"Winning is very important to them," Guter told Cybercast News Service. "The difference between the guy that's cut and the guy that's starting is a very, very small percentage, so it's hard to vilify these guys when they are trying to do what they think is best for themselves at the time."
Guter also said he believes locker rooms are "a lot more self-policing than they used to be."
Does the Mitchell report signal the end of what has been dubbed "the steroids era" in baseball and other professional sports?
"It certainly shines the light on it," Gee said. "But I don't think you ever fully put an end to (the steroids problem.)"
Gee said fans can't help but view today's report without being cynical - and wondering about whether their own favorite sports heroes have used performance enhancers.
"I think the takeaway from today's announcement is that you can't trust anyone anymore," he said. "It puts everyone under a cloud of suspicion. I think fans will be disappointed. But I also don't think its going to keep anyone away from the ballparks anytime soon."
Gee pointed out that baseball made over $6 billion last year - setting records at parks across America for attendance.
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