Steroid Report Further Taints Baseball's Image

After Investigation, Marketers May Not Want to Come Out to the Ballgame

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Marketers who use pro baseball as an ad vehicle have been nervously anticipating today's results of a potentially devastating investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell Credit: AP

The 409-page report detailing the results of an investigation led by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell cites dozens of players, including several current and former All-Stars. Players named include New York Yankees pitchers Roger Clemens and Andy Petitte, Washington Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca, Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, and also retired standouts such as outfielders David Justice and Len Dykstra and pitcher Kevin Brown, among many others.

The taint of steroid use isn't exactly new to baseball. Stars such as Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco have been linked to steroids for years by court testimony, books and other published reports. And Mr. Bonds -- who this year became baseball's all-time home-run leader -- recently was indicted on perjury charges connected to a federal inquiry into his alleged steroid use.

New details, new names
But the Mitchell Report brings new details -- and names -- into the discussion, perhaps shattering any remaining notion that drug use was limited to a few individuals. The latter concern could weaken baseball's appeal to sponsors, experts said.

"It creates the perception that the playing field isn't level, and that throws the very thing sponsors are interested in being associated with off-kilter," said Ken Ungar, president of Indianapolis sports-business consultancy Ungar Strategies. "It's going to be really, really hard [for baseball]."

But it will be even harder, Mr. Ungar said, for the players named in the report to continue to make money from endorsements and memorabilia. "For their sake, I really hope they have crisis-management plans in place."
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