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More than 50 players said to be in Mitchell Report

More gory details from major-league baseball’s steroid era will come to light on Thursday when former Sen. George Mitchell releases the results of his 20-month investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.

A person with knowledge of the findings said Wednesday that more than 50 players, including big stars, would be named as steroid users by Mitchell, who will release his report at a 2 p.m. EST Manhattan news conference. The voluminous report will be simultaneously posted on MLB.com.

Commissioner Bud Selig hired Mitchell to conduct the investigation in March 2006, a year after former slugger Jose Canseco authored a book detailing his and other players’ use of steroids, and just weeks after a best-selling book describing slugger Barry Bonds’ alleged steroid use hit the streets.

Selig, who was not available for comment on Wednesday, will appear at a separate news conference on Thursday. At the World Series two months ago, he said he was eager to hear Mitchell’s findings, no matter how ugly.

"I don’t have anything to hide," Selig said at the time. "Whatever George Mitchell uncovers, he uncovers. Maybe we can learn from it. Hopefully, we can. I want it said we’ve dealt with everything forthrightly."

The baseball world has eagerly anticipated the report for months.

"I’m expectant," said Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who was interviewed as part of the investigation. "I’m curious. Other than that, I really can’t comment. The commissioner asked this to be done. I think we needed this."

During the winter meetings in Nashville last week, several managers said they were ready to see the report.

"You’re curious about what’s there," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "You’re curious about the accuracy. You’re curious about how it’s going to have an effect on the game, how it possibly might have an effect on your team."

During the investigation, which cost the owners $20 million by some estimates, Mitchell and his staff interviewed hundreds of witnesses, from former players and team athletic trainers to coaches and front-office officials. The key witness was Kirk Radomski, a former New York Mets clubhouse attendant who illegally provided players with steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Mitchell also used information from the federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) in California and an Albany County, N.Y., investigation into a ring of pharmacies and aging clinics.

Since Mitchell did not have subpoena power or the cooperation of the players’ association, his access to active players was severely restricted. New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi, a former American League MVP, is the only identified player to speak with Mitchell. He cooperated after being threatened with disciplinary action after acknowledging steroid use last summer. Last month, Sports Illustrated reported that another unnamed active player had agreed to be interviewed.

In April, the investigation got its big break when Radomski was convicted of illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs from 1995 to 2005. Radomski’s client list included dozens of major-leaguers. As part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, Radomski cooperated with Mitchell and furnished him with names.

Critics have wondered whether Mitchell’s close ties to MLB allow him to be completely objective. The former Senate majority leader is listed as a director of the Boston Red Sox. Team officials say Mitchell divorced himself from the advisory position when the investigation began, but that didn’t stop the likes of Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who is a former Phillies pitcher and Hall of Famer, from suggesting that baseball should have chosen a different investigator.

Also, when the investigation began, Mitchell was chairman of the board of the Walt Disney Co., which owns ESPN, one of MLB’s broadcast partners. Mitchell has since relinquished the post.

Selig has vehemently defended Mitchell’s credentials and objectivity and continually said he was the right man for the job.

MLB officials have spent the last two days reviewing the report, which is expected to have more than 300 pages.

It is still unclear what consequences players named in the report will face. MLB did not start testing for steroids until 2003 and did not suspend players for a first positive test until 2005. The sport did not ban human growth hormone until 2005.

Mitchell’s report is expected to call for increased testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

On the surface, it may appear that Mitchell will deliver a black eye to baseball. However, the steroid cloud has hung over the game for a decade, and attendance and revenue keep climbing. Baseball set an attendance record for the fourth straight year in 2007, drawing 79.5 million fans. Revenue eclipsed $6 billion for the first time.

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