WASHINGTON — The leaders of a House of Representatives committee said Tuesday that they have asked the Justice Department to investigate whether baseball star Miguel Tejada committed perjury in 2005 when he denied having used illegal steroids.
Also at Tuesday's hearing, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell strongly defended including in his report last month allegations that pitching great Roger Clemens took steroid and human growth hormone injections.
In a packed committee room on Capitol Hill, members of the House Government Oversight Committee praised baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players union chief Donald Fehr for taking tougher steps to block the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But lawmakers said they haven't gone far enough.
"Baseball needs to fix the problem, change this culture, alter how it does business with regards to steroids, human growth hormone and all matter of dangerous performance-enhancing drugs, or — and this is a promise, not a threat — Congress will do it for you," said Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the panel's senior Republican.
Allegations of steroids use by San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds, Clemens and other top players have tarnished baseball's reputation and cast doubt on their achievements.
Davis and Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the committee, sent Attorney General Michael Mukasey a letter seeking a probe of statements by Tejada, the Houston Astros shortstop and former American League Most Valuable Player.
The lawmakers said in their letter that Tejada may have "made knowingly false material statements to the committee" during its investigation of possible steroid use by Rafael Palmeiro, a former teammate when both played for the Baltimore Orioles.
Mitchell, who at Selig's request conducted a 21-month investigation into the use of steroids in baseball, said he personally conducted three interviews with Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer, about McNamee's claims that he injected the pitcher with steroids and human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001.
"On each occasion, Mr. McNamee was informed by the federal officials present that if he made any false statements during these interviews, he would subject himself to further criminal charges," Mitchell said.
Federal prosecutors, FBI agents and IRS officials were present during the interviews, Mitchell said.
"Mr. McNamee had an overwhelming incentive to tell the truth," Mitchell said.
Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, has filed a defamation lawsuit against McNamee and strongly denied the allegations in a TV interview.
Bonds, who is under federal indictment on perjury charges in a steroids-related case, has said he didn't knowingly use the drugs.
Bonds passed Hank Aaron in August as the game's career home run-king with his 756th blast. Clemens, who pitched for the New York Yankees last season, has 354 career wins.
Tuesday's hearing came a month after the release of Mitchell's report, which implicated 88 current and former players in the use or purchase of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens and Bonds are the most prominent players named in the report.
Even as lawmakers and the baseball leaders tussled over steroids, Mitchell urged them not to become mired in the past, but to focus on continuing to clean up the game now.
Mitchell described the difficult years he spent helping negotiate a peace accord in Northern Ireland after he left the Senate in 1995.
"I learned then that sometimes you have to turn the page and look to the future," Mitchell said.
Fehr defended the refusal by every active baseball player except sluggers Jason Giambi and Frank Thomas, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, to talk with Mitchell and his aides about steroids use in the game.
The decision to conduct the Mitchell probe, Fehr said, was made without consulting him, and he had no input into its parameters.
"I'd ask you to remember that this was a unilateral action taken by management," Fehr told lawmakers. "As a result, we had no choice but to act as unions are required to act by federal law — to represent our members in connection with an investigation with potential disciplinary consequences."
Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, scolded Fehr.
"I don't know how you have collective bargaining for cheating," Shays said.
At one point, as lawmakers debated whether players or team owners are more to blame for the steroids scandal, Rep. Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, interjected: "I don't think that Congress' proper role is to mediate disputes between those (people) that make tens of millions of dollars and those that make hundreds of millions of dollars."
Selig and Fehr told the panel that far fewer ballplayers were found to be using anabolic steroids in 2006 and 2007 as a result of more frequent testing and stiffer penalties adopted in 2005.
But the baseball barons acknowledged that the use of human growth hormone could be rising, in the absence of a reliable, commercially available test for it.
Rep. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat, also criticized the increased number of medical exemptions allowing players to take Ritalin, Adderall and other medicines for attention deficit disorder.
"Some athletes think that they're performance-enhancers," Tierney said. "They're listed by baseball as prohibited stimulants."
Selig said the use of such drugs goes through "two layers" of review — by each player's doctor and by a physician employed by Major League Baseball.
"Amphetamines were not part of our investigation," Mitchell said.