Congress may look at NFL steroids

Waxman aide: Hearing is appropriate to gauge how league is policing use

April 01, 2005|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The NFL could find its steroid policies the subject of a congressional hearing, just as Major League Baseball did two weeks ago.

The House Committee on Government Reform hasn't scheduled anything yet. But a top-ranking member believes it would be "appropriate" to convene a hearing to gauge how well the NFL is policing steroid use, an aide said yesterday.

"The NFL has been more pro-active than baseball," said Phillip Schiliro, chief of staff for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the panel's top Democrat. "But the question is whether their policy is working, and Congressman Waxman thinks this is an appropriate subject for a hearing."

The panel's chairman, Virginia Republican Tom Davis, is also interested in further steroid-related hearings, although an aide says they could focus more broadly than on football alone.

"You are sure to see follow-up hearings on policies in other pro sports leagues," David Marin, a committee spokesman for Davis, said in an e-mailed response to a Sun query. "We need to compare and contrast. We're just not sure when, or whether it'll be football alone, or football and others."

Yesterday, the committee asked the NFL for a substantial number of documents on drug testing protocols -- including how testing is conducted, the notice provided to players and procedures for disclosing the identities of players who test positive.

The committee requested that the league deliver the documents within a week. It said similar letters were being sent to the NBA, the NHL, the NCAA, USA Track & Field and Major League Soccer.

The letter to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue came two weeks after the panel subpoenaed a handful of baseball players -- as well as several top baseball executives -- to testify about steroid use in their sport.

The baseball hearing "was the first in a series for the committee as part of its ongoing investigation into steroid policies for professional and amateur sports," said the committee's letter to Tagliabue, which was signed by Davis and Waxman.

Many of the committee members said after the March 17 hearing that they were not satisfied with baseball's response. "Major League Baseball's testing policy is in shambles," Waxman said this week.

Some panel members believe legislation is needed to compel baseball to toughen its steroid regimen, particularly in regard to punishments. But there is no agreement yet on the need for a bill.

It didn't help baseball when Elliot J. Pellman, a medical adviser to the sport who had testified at the hearing, was found by the New York Times this week to have discrepancies in biographical statements about his credentials.

Football, too, has attracted the committee's attention this week regarding steroids. CBS' news show, 60 Minutes Wednesday, reported that three Carolina Panthers purchased illegal performance-enhancing substances shortly before the February 2004 Super Bowl.

The NFL said it has launched its own investigation into the scandal.

The league said yesterday that it intends to fully cooperate with the House panel. "I have directed our staff to be fully responsive to the committee's request," Tagliabue said in a letter to Davis and Waxman.

Sun staff writer Ken Murray contributed to this article.

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