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Is MLB's steroid probe a wild goose chase?

Former Major League Baseball attorney Stanley Brand joined Keith Olbermann to discuss the legal aspects of the steroid investigation on Countdown.

It goes too far, it doesn't go far enough.  It goes too far back in time, it doesn't go back far enough.  It's being run by somebody too close to the business, it's being run by an outsider.  And perhaps most ominously, it's racist?

That is the essence of the reactions from Minnesota Twins center field Tori Hunter and former Oakland A's pitching ace Dave Stewart. 

Hunter said, “If you're going to dig, dig real deep.  Dig into guys like Nolan Ryan.  What was he taking? There's no way they would launch an investigation if Barry Bonds was not about to break Babe Ruth's record.”  Bonds is just six homers behind Ruth's total of 714 career home runs, but the record of 755 he's seeking to break belongs, of course, to another African-American star, Henry Aaron.

More practically, there are questions about the investigation's scope, its powers, and its chairman, George Mitchell.

Keith discussed the issues surrounding the probe with Stanley Brand, the noted defense attorney who represented baseball at last year's landmark congressional steroid hearings.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, "COUNTDOWN": With a little chance to reflect on this thing and what we know of what George Mitchell can and cannot do, do the critics have a point?  Is this some kind of toothless wild goose chase?

STANLEY BRAND, DEFENSE ATTORNEY AT CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS:  I don't think so.  I mean, here you have a man who has been called on by presidents of the United States to settle international crises, things of a greater magnitude even than baseball, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, a man who's been a federal judge, a U.S. senator, and a man who's been above reproach his entire career.

So I think  this is what you suggested at the opening.  Baseball in this situation is like the weather.  It's too hot.  It's too cold.  It's too wet.  It's too dry.  It's never just right.

OLBERMANN:  One criticism that sprung up today is based on the reactions of some people who like the investigation.  Congressman Henry Waxman, other politicians, saying it's about time, it's a good step.  And that could lead you to wonder: Was the investigation launched, especially considering there is a former senator at its helm, to keep Congress from starting it's own investigation?

BRAND:  I don't think so.  I think that what pushed the commissioner over the edge were the revelations in this book, revelations of heretofore, you know, greater specificity than we've ever seen.  I think it's been cumulative.  People asking the commissioner and pressing the commissioner to do this, and he finally reached the point where I think it was inevitable.

OLBERMANN:  When the first reports came out that the commissioner was going to form an investigation committee that would consist entirely of four executive vice presidents of baseball, his predecessor as commissioner, Faye Vincent, said, No, you need outside people.  Did they get somebody far enough outside in George Mitchell?  He is, after all, on the board of directors of the Boston Red Sox.

BRAND:  He is, but, I mean, his reputation is as an absolute straight-shooter.  He's going to assemble a team of professionals, including people who have been involved in numerous internal investigations.  He has said, and I take him at his word, knowing him as I do from my days on Capitol Hill when I worked for Tip O'Neill, that he will go wherever it leads, that the scope is up to him, and that he will have absolutely unfettered access to any area of the game controlled by the commissioner, subject to the commissioner's jurisdiction.

I have every confidence he'll do that.

OLBERMANN:  The last thing here, this issue that has been raised of the prospect that there is racism involved in this.  The indisputable fact is that when Mark McGwire was chasing the single-season record for home runs in 1998, and another subject, a precursor to steroids, androstendion, was found in his locker in the middle of that, No one did anything.  There was no investigation.  McGwire retired without incident.  And now Bonds is essentially the focus of a huge, very publicized investigation.

People see that in racial terms.  Are they wrong to do so?

BRAND:  I think so, because in 1998, remember, there was no collective bargaining agreement that covered these banned substances.  In fact, I think the substance that Mark McGwire took at that time was not even on the controlled substance list promulgated by the government.  That happened later.

What will comfort people, or what should comfort people, is that the scope of this investigation is not Barry Bonds.  The scope is Balco Labs and the leads that come from Balco Labs, wherever they go, whether that's African-American players or white players or Hispanic players or anyone else.  And that's where I think people, when they see the results, whatever they are, will be assured that it's not dedicated solely to Barry Bonds.

OLBERMANN:  Let's hope so, and let's hope that's the perception.

Defense attorney Stan Brand, formerly the counsel for major league baseball at the steroid hearings last year.  Great thanks for your time again, sir.