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George Mitchell's long-awaited report on performance-enhancing drug use in baseball sent shock waves around the league on Dec. 13

Year of the cheat

News of the Year | News of the Year - December 2007

Issue: "News of the Year," Dec. 29, 2007

Baseball fans young and old will remember the day their worst suspicions proved true-the day that dozens of the nation's greatest athletes and childhood role models turned out to be common cheats.

The results of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's 21-month investigation into performance-enhancing drug use in baseball sent shock waves around the league on Dec. 13. The report links 88 active and former players to banned substances over the past decade and rebukes the game's owners, commissioners, front office officials, and players union for their "collective failure" to resist the advent of this steroid culture.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Miguel Tejada, Andy Petite, and Gary Sheffield are among the biggest names of a list that includes 31 All-Stars, seven MVPs, and two Cy Young Award winners. What's more, Mitchell considers his report far from comprehensive, a mere scratch to the surface of a problem that has infected every clubhouse in Major League Baseball.

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But rather than recommend stiff punishment for past offenders, Mitchell's report calls on baseball to move forward-to avoid dragged-out suspension proceedings that look back and instead implement strict new testing and zero-tolerance policies for the future. Mitchell hopes his work can represent the end of the drug-tainted era, not the beginning of a litigation cloud.

Other professional sports leagues seem eager to follow that same forward-looking approach as the year of the cheater comes to a close. NBA enthusiasts cannot forget quickly enough the stunning scandal of gambling referee Tim Donaghy that played out this past summer. NFL fans can only wish that the New England Patriots' run toward one of the greatest seasons in league history were not tainted by coach Bill Belichick's illegal videotaping of opponents' play-calling signals.

Individual athletes were similarly scandalized, with track star Marion Jones and world-class cyclist Michael Rasmussen caught in the thicket of doping charges.

The Mitchell Report serves as a fitting end to a sports year full of such disgraceful behavior. Any inspiring stories over the last 12 months-most notably a Super Bowl victory for exemplary Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy-seem overshadowed in the darkness that was 2007.

Also in December ...

United Russia, the country's leading political party, won a landslide victory in Dec. 2 parliamentary elections, capturing more than 64 percent of the votes. But given the stacked press coverage and manipulation of election laws to keep opposing parties off the ballot, the results proved too weak a mandate for President Vladimir Putin to seek a third term, a move that would have required altering the Russian constitution.

Instead, Putin handpicked Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev as his successor, an endorsement expected to face no serious challenge in national elections this spring. Putin may stay on to serve as prime minister, in which case Medvedev could serve as a mere puppet for the continued rule of Russia's "Chief Bear."

On Dec. 4, the much-anticipated sentencing of convicted terrorist Jose Padilla was postponed until early January due to a death in the judge's family. The 37-year-old U.S. citizen was convicted in August of conspiracy to murder, kidnap, and maim people overseas, which carries a recommended sentence of 30 years to life in prison.

President George W. Bush declared Padilla an enemy combatant in 2002 after federal authorities foiled a plot to detonate a "dirty bomb" in a major city. That designation allowed the military to detain Padilla for 3 1/2 years without a trial, during which time he claims to have endured psychological torture that should, his lawyers contend, entitle him to leniency.

Delegates to the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin in central California on Dec. 8 voted overwhelmingly to leave the Episcopal Church (TEC) but to remain part of the 70-million-member worldwide Anglican Communion. The departure represents the first for an entire TEC diocese since the Civil War and highlights a growing rift in Episcopal and Presbyterian churches over biblical authority and homosexuality.

Three other dioceses have taken initial steps to disaffiliate and will vote in the coming year: Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, and Quincy in northern Illinois. Two of the largest churches in the Sacramento presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently bought their way out of the denomination, agreeing to pay between $160,000 and $250,000 to avoid costly lawsuits.

Matthew Murray killed four people and wounded five others during an anti-Christian killing spree Dec. 9 at Youth With a Mission's Arvada, Colo., training center and New Life Church in Colorado Springs. New Life security guard Jeanne Assam ended the rampage with several non-lethal shots at the gunman, who then took his own life.

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