Yes, news consumers have moved on. The televised congressional hearing produced 48 hours of press/video roar; it was a crossover story, headlined on the front page and sports page, but then it was back to Michael Jackson or on to Terri Schiavo and NCAA basketball. News is a gluttonous predator, and there is never enough food. But before we join the herd, let's hold here for a moment and consider what just happened.
A large organization, shielded from public scrutiny, is, after many years of perceived wrongdoing, invited to testify before a congressional committee. The organization's leaders and star employees decline to appear. The committee threatens subpoenas. The other side lawyered up, and those lawyers say they will fight committee subpoenas in court if any are issued. Subpoenas are issued and committee leaders say they will bring contempt of Congress charges against every person who does not appear. Executives and star employees reluctantly show up. Executives deny there is a problem and say they are dealing with the problem brilliantly. Star employees request immunity, deny using steroids, or refuse to talk about the past, save for one ex-employee, a whistle-blower, who is characterized by the rest as a liar.
The committee also requested documents from the organization. That went nowhere. The committee subpoenaed documents, the bulk of which -- not all -- were turned over hours before the subpoena's deadline came due. Turned out the documents proved that executives were lying. What the executives said in public was opposite of what they had agreed upon between themselves. When confronted with this fact, executives said that what was written and approved by them and representatives of their star employees was "a drafting error."
News quiz. Am I talking about Enron, the Mafia, or the tobacco industry?
Commissioner of baseball Bud Selig, prodded by credible congressional threats backed by the prospect of imminent congressional action, announced in January that after heroic and unprecedented efforts, the owners and players union had reopened their collective-bargaining agreement and inserted stiff drug-testing procedures and severe penalties. Now, the first time a player tested positive he would receive a mandatory ten-day suspension along with the publication of the offender's name. Selig told the nation, "We had a problem and we dealt with the problem." Two months later he told the House Committee on Government Reform, "I am proud of the progress baseball has made on the subject of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs and look forward to sharing this information with the committee. The players stepped up this past January for an even stricter drug policy beginning this season, demonstrating that all of us in baseball are committed to reaching zero tolerance."
Subpoenaed documents show Selig lied. The actual contract language said, after a player tested positive the first time, the penalty would either be a ten-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine. A player who is fined would not be identified. Second-time offenders would be suspended 30 days or fined $25,000, third-time offenders would be suspended 60 days or fined $50,000, and fourth-time offenders would be suspended one year or fined $100,000. You could be busted four times and never have your name made public. As for the $100,000, Barry Bonds made $18 million in 2004.
That was reported widely. As was the heroic and unprecedented action the owners and players association took in re-reopening their collective-bargaining agreement three days after being flayed to the bone by Congress. Baseball thugs inserted language that made a ten-day suspension mandatory after the first positive test.
But what was not reported widely was the rest of the bargaining agreement, which is at least as slimy as the mandatory-suspension-actually-means-a-ten-dollar-fine-and-pat-on-the-back clause baseball tried to slip by us while we were watching Texas Tech thump UCLA. The new agreement also states that baseball would not test for all the drugs Olympic competitors are tested for. Baseball would omit human-growth hormones, amphetamines, and even some types of steroids. The testing would be done by a company hired by baseball and overseen by representatives of baseball owners and baseball players.
Written into the agreement is a caring clause that says if a player is called upon to give a urine sample and is unable to bring forth urine, the poor lad will be allowed to leave the testing area for a period of time in order to buy a clean sample of urine from someone else. Oops, got a little ahead of myself there. That's not true, the player will be allowed to leave the testing area, unescorted, and return when his bladder is ready to comply.
The agreement states that owners and players "shall resist any government investigation by all reasonable and appropriate means including, when necessary, initiation and prosecution of legal proceedings." Both sides pledge to rat out the government if either one discovers that a government investigation is under way. If that be the case, both sides pledge to immediately suspend drug testing.
Baseball! As corrupt as they want to be.