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What does Mitchell Report mean for NFL fans?

Mitchell Report Is Just the Beginning
Sad Days for All Sports and Their Fans

Debates rage in the baseball world over the use of illegal and performance-enhancing substances. With the release of "the Mitchell Report" by former Sen. George Mitchell, the rhetoric is about to reach even higher levels.

Already one player named in the report, Roger Clemens, has said through his attorney that Mitchell's report is slanderous. No doubt more denials are forthcoming. It's more than 20 months of work and a few players' reputations at stake.

The denials by players and their union (euphemistically called a "players' association") will be ridiculous. While there is likely no proof beyond the shadow of a doubt -- only positive tests would prove it -- no one grounded in reality doubts that PESs are prevalent in sports.

That's all sports.

The names listed in the Mitchell Report barely scratch the surface. They're the ice cube at the tip of the iceberg. We know that cycling is rife with doping. So is track and field. There have been allegations in golf. If people are using PESs in those endeavors, can you imagine the state of things in a sport where one player makes as much as entire teams?

Check that. Some Major League Baseball players make as much as entire teams in their own sport. Some players salaries may be as much as some entire leagues of other sports.

And you would redefine naïve if you were to think that the National Football League is an exception. We already know several big names who have been caught, New England's Rodney Harrison among them.

Harrison was nabbed in an investigation examining other people when his name turned up in a distributor's records. Like many people named in Mitchell's report, Harrison never tested positive for anything, but he was known to have paid for PESs, Human Growth Hormone (virtually undetectable by current testing techniques) in his case. The records haunted Harrison as they will haunt those baseball players. Harrison came clean. I'm sure some of the baseball players will make some pathetic, incredible excuses.

San Diego's Shawne Merriman tested positive for steroid use. He and Harrison served their suspensions and are playing again. Merriman continues to "earn" huge dollars in endorsements, and his sins are all but forgotten. That is a sin of ours, collectively.

All you need to do is look at some NFL players and you cannot avoid the inescapable conclusion that if use of PESs are so widespread in other sports, they certainly are in pro football.

During his press conference earlier this afternoon, Mitchell a reporter asked whether Mitchell's investigation turned up evidence regarding other sports. He replied that his charge was to investigate baseball. Later on ABC, Mitchell intimated that he discovered that PESs were prevalent in amateur sports. It's easy enough to read between the lines.

It's been called a sad day in baseball. Other sports have already had days like these. Other sports will, and there will be repeated days like these while the robbers remain steps ahead of the cops.

But if you ask me, today isn't the sad day. Today is the first optimistic step toward real solutions, however unlikely it is we find them. The sad days are all the days that have led to today when Mitchell revealed his report. All those days that players have cheated and those that they have lied about it. All those days not only when the players, their representatives and the unions lied, but all the days that the faithful fans refused to believe what they knew to be true.

Those are the sad days.

There are many more such days to come.