George Mitchell, who on Thursday delivered sobering evidence of widespread steroid abuse in professional baseball in recent years, is used to being in the hot seat.
The 74-year-old lawyer and former politician also knows that his tight relationship with Major League Baseball left him open to criticism that he's too close to the sport that has been reeling under the weight of the steroid abuse scandal.
But the former U.S. senator Thursday pointed to his past role as an American statesman in Northern Ireland during the 1990s to counter criticism that the 409-page report he delivered Thursday during a news conference in New York was unduly influenced by his decision to continue as a director of the Boston Red Sox.
"When I went to Northern Ireland, there was considerable controversy because some claimed I had a conflict because I'm an American, a Catholic," Mitchell said. "The criticism I received there was far more hard and intense than anything I've gotten here, [but] since then, no one has ever repeated that claim.
"Judge me by my work. Take a look at how the investigation was conducted, read the report. You will not find any evidence of bias, of special treatment of the Red Sox or anyone else, because there is none."
Mitchell, who went to Northern Ireland at the request of President Clinton, spent years shuttling between the U.S. and Ireland before brokering a 1998 peace that many European observers had believed to be impossible.
During the intense process, a chief negotiator for Sinn Fein, the political arm of the extremist IRA, said that Mitchell "has brought an element of professionalism and evenhandedness to the talks. His contribution has been extremely positive, and we have faith in his impartiality."
Mitchell's business connections also became an issue during the early 2000s, when the lawyer was named chairman of the Walt Disney Co. At the time, some shareholders questioned Mitchell's independence from then-Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner. Mitchell served as chairman until after Eisner's successor was chosen and then retired from the board.
Questions about Mitchell's ability to remain impartial surfaced almost immediately in 2006 when Commissioner Bud Selig appointed the lawyer to lead an investigation into the sport's growing steroid scandal.
At the time, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), a Hall of Fame pitcher who had criticized baseball's weak steroid policies, faulted Selig for turning the investigation over to "one of their own. . . . I believe that baseball would have been wiser to pick someone who is not as close to the game."
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A list of most of the players in the Mitchell Report:
The following players were connected to steroids, either use or possession, in the report:
Paul Lo Duca
Exavier "Nook" Logan
The following players were cited under "alleged Internet purchases of performance-enhancing substances by players in Major League Baseball":
Gary Matthews Jr.
The following players were linked through BALCO:
Source: Associated Press