SBD/Issue 111/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Sports Leaders, Congress Spar Over Government Role In Sports

Goodell (r) Only Commissioner To Support
Federal Legislation Requiring Testing Guidelines
NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday during the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection hearing on performance-enhancing drugs in sports "took the lead, angrily speaking out of turn on several occasions to defend the rights of sports leagues to police themselves,'' according to Ben DuBose of the L.A. Times. In reference to the '05 hearing the committee held, Stern said, "Sports leagues have gotten it right in the past two or three years. Enormous progress has been made. This is an area where federal legislation is not necessary." But U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) responded, "If you all had gotten it right, we would not be here today." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the "only member of the first panel who acknowledged support for federal legislation requiring the implementation of testing guidelines recommended in the Mitchell Report." The other seven members on the panel all "rejected that notion repeatedly" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28).

GOLDEN STANDARD? Goodell said during the hearing, "We've been testing for over two decades and we think we're the gold standard of testing in professional sports. We have such a high standard that (legislation) wouldn't have an impact on us" (ESPNews, 2/27). However, USOC CEO Jim Scherr and USADA CEO Travis Tygart, who were part of a second panel before the committee, "disagreed with Goodell's assessment." Scherr, when asked by U.S. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) how pro sports drug testing differs from Olympic procedures, said, "Their penalties are more lenient." Scherr noted that in pro sports, the "degree of independence and transparency is inferior and there are fewer no-advance-notice tests" (USA TODAY, 2/28). Tygart: "While the professional leagues' anti-doping policies have significantly improved over the past several years, they still fail to fully implement all the basic elements of the most effective programs" (Baltimore SUN, 2/28). When asked if he objected to having a drug-testing policy comparable to the Olympics, Upshaw said, “We feel that our program is better than the Olympics in many ways and I think we do what we feel is best for the players in the (NFL)” (ESPNews, 2/27).

FUTURE PLANS: Committee Chair Bobby Rush (D-IL) said it was his “full intention to move a bi-partisan bill” about mandating drug-testing. U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX): “Let’s go ahead and get something into law that’s acceptable. It’s no fun having this hearing every two to three years when we have another scandal" (ESPNews, 2/27). Rush said after the hearing that it "might take months for the legislation to move through Congress -- perhaps until a new presidential administration takes over in January" (Baltimore SUN, 2/28). Tygart added the "issue of drugs in sport strikes at the very heart of the question of what role sport will play in America's future. USADA's interest in this discussion is driven by a motive to not only protect the rights of today's Olympic athletes to play drug free, but just as important to protect America's next generation of athletes" (AROUNDTHERINGS.com, 2/28).

Subcomittee Interested In
Talking With WWE's McMahon
OTHER SPORTS: NTRA President & CEO Alex Waldrop was part of the second panel, and he said that he wants "all states to adopt mandatory steroid testing for thoroughbred horses by the end of this year." Thus far, only a "handful have done so." Waldrop: "If they don't step up, then it is incumbent upon the federal government to step up" (L.A. TIMES, 2/28). U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) said that he "would not be opposed to legislation to compel states to ban steroids at horse races." Whitfield: "Is it time to call the federal calvary and send it chasing into your stables with guns blazing to clean up the sport of horse racing?" The Maryland Racing Commission said that it "hopes to have rules in place by next year cracking down on 'cheaters' who load up their horses with steroids." Meanwhile, Rush said he wanted to question WWE Chair Vince McMahon, who declined to attend the hearing because his attorney was unable. In Baltimore, Jeff Barker reports the committee "became interested in WWE" after wrestler Chris Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself last year; steroids were found in Benoit's home (Baltimore SUN, 2/28).

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