Productive meeting

Productive meeting
By Josh Peter, Yahoo Sports
September 14, 2007

Josh Peter
Yahoo Sports
The Mitchell commission and prosecutors from Albany County, N.Y., held a productive meeting Thursday, discussing what could be mutually beneficial information about performance-enhancing drugs used by Major League Baseball players and the distribution of those drugs, a source familiar with the meeting told Yahoo! Sports.

The information could help forge a working relationship between the two groups, but no future meetings have been scheduled, according to the source. George Mitchell, the former senator who heads an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, was not at the meeting. But his representatives and prosecutors with the Albany County district attorney’s office met in a session that lasted about 90 minutes.

The meeting included David Soares, the district attorney who two days earlier in an exclusive interview with Y! Sports had been critical of MLB's efforts to cooperate with his investigation. However, Soares would not comment about the meeting.

Despite the upbeat nature of the day, MLB officials and the Mitchell commission were no closer to obtaining names of players linked to the far-reaching steroids scandal triggered by the investigation launched by the Albany County district attorney’s office two years ago, according to the source.

Soares has indicated he would provide the names only if he is assured the players will meet with prosecutors and be forthcoming during interviews. Neither MLB officials nor the Mitchell commission have pledged to facilitate such interviews, and the players’ union likely would stand in the way.

A source said that because the Albany County district attorney's office has limited resources, Soares cannot afford to pursue interviews with athletes who might not cooperate. One reason he is interested in talking to the players is that they could have information about how steroids are distributed and about the existence of a wider distribution network besides simple online sales.

Mitchell faces hurdles of his own in gaining the cooperation of players. A week ago, the New York Times reported that the players’ union sent a letter to Mitchell informing him that 45 players he requested to speak with would not do so. Soares’ refusal to provide names of players linked to the steroids case suggests Mitchell did not obtain names of the 45 players from the district attorney.

The only player to speak with Mitchell has been Jason Giambi, who agreed to cooperate after he publicly admitted he’d used steroids and avoided punishment by talking with Mitchell.

Soares spearheaded the raids on Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Fla., and health clinics in February that have resulted in nine defendants entering guilty pleas so far. However, Soares says the leaks that led to news reports detailing how Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder Rick Ankiel and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons obtained performance-enhancing drugs did not come from his office.

MLB officials and the Mitchell commission both want the names of players on lists seized during the raids. Baseball hopes to end the embarrassing leaks while the Mitchell commission, formed in March 2006 by MLB commissioner Bud Selig, is seeking information about the role performance-enhancing drugs have played in baseball.

Soares has said his goal is not to address the steroids issue in baseball, but rather target pharmacies and other suppliers. He wants to cut off the supply of performance-enhancing drugs that young athletes could obtain without a valid prescription. He also said he is willing to share information only in exchange for help with the prosecution of Signature and others charged in the criminal case.

Soares provided the NFL with names of a player, coach and team doctor linked to the scandal, but said he did so only because the NFL facilitated productive interviews with the prospective witnesses and assisted him with the case. MLB might find it more difficult to provide Soares with similar access to players because the players' union likely would object – as it did when Mitchell requested to meet with players.

Josh Peter is a writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Josh a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

Updated on Friday, Sep 14, 2007 7:13 am, EDT

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