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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 04:32 GMT
Fans underwhelmed by drug charges
By Matthew Price
BBC News, New York

George Mitchell points the finger
George Mitchell pointed the finger at drug-taking
The Yankee Tavern outside the New York Yankees stadium has a fair few people in it, even though there is no game on.

Perhaps that is because of the great spaghetti and meatballs.

Or perhaps it is because the television screens behind the bar are about to broadcast one of the most important verdicts to date on the state of what they simply call here "America's sport" - baseball.

When he appears, Senator George Mitchell doesn't mince his words.

'Not isolated'

"The evidence we uncovered indicates that this has not been an isolated problem involving just a few players or a few clubs," he says.

The problem is drug taking. Using steroids or human growth hormone to improve performance.

These are the ones the kids look up to. And to have this happen is heartbreaking
Bob Schieffer
Former player

"Each of the 30 clubs has had players who have been involved with such substances in their career," Sen Mitchell went on, calling it a "culture" in the sport.

In the bar many barely looked up from their beer, but Winston B Rouse, a lawyer, did have time for a quick chat.

"It gets you extra hits, extra home runs, and extra everything else, so it's very unfair," he said.

Another man said it should be condemned, "absolutely".

Does drug taking among players though affect his enjoyment of the sport?

"Probably not to a great degree, but I think it needs to be universally banned."

I love Yankees placard
Fans seem loyal to their teams whatever the allegations

But last season saw record takings and record attendances at baseball matches.

Which might explain one woman's suggestion that she was "all for it".

"It does improve the game - or it improves their ability to play better," she said.

Child use

That is not a suggestion Sen Mitchell is likely to have much time for. One of his most shocking findings is that - in his words - hundreds of thousands of high school students are now also illegally using steroids.

A former baseball player and lifelong fan of the game, Bob Schieffer, who is now a correspondent for CBS, says the majority of baseball fans will be very upset by the news that their sport is tainted by drugs.

"These are the role-models," he says. "These are the ones the kids look up to. And to have this happen is heartbreaking."

Every single one of the Major League teams is implicated, with at least one player from each taking performance-enhancing drugs, according to Sen Mitchell.

Barry Bonds banner
Some fans do not want to believe the drugs allegations

The report's "Who's Who" of alleged drug users is a virtual Hall of Fame of modern baseball. Bonds, Pettitte, Giambi, Clemens - though he has denied the allegation. Names that mean little elsewhere - but everything here in the US.

Sen Mitchell recommended year-round unannounced drug testing to try to clean up the sport. Baseball's governing body has backed him fully.

That is likely to go down well with the fans.

However back in the Yankee Tavern, as one man pointed out, come the start of the season next year, when the first ball is pitched, "probably no one in that stadium will remember."

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