Congressional steroid hearing likely

Probe expected to study baseball and other sports

November 17, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON -- One day after the indictment of home run king Barry Bonds, an Illinois congressman said yesterday that he will hold a hearing on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and other sports.

Rep. Bobby Rush, chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, said he plans to convene the hearing when Congress returns from its winter recess early next year.

Rush said the timing was right, given that former senator George Mitchell soon is expected to release the results of his independent review of steroids in baseball.

"Given recent developments - the impending Mitchell report and reports of widespread abuse in professional wrestling - I believe it's time we get a formal update on what progress is being made to eradicate steroids from all sports and sports entertainment," Rush, a Democrat, said in an e-mail to The Sun.

Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, the top-ranking Republican on Rush's subcommittee - Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection - issued a statement of his own citing Bonds and endorsing a hearing in concept.

"A criminal investigation found evidence of the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs by Bonds and others and led to the indictment of Bonds," Stearns said.

"I am still concerned that MLB does not have in place a sound policy addressing steroid use in the sport," he said. "I believe that another hearing should be held if the Mitchell report or the Bonds trial shows the use of steroids and other drugs among baseball players."

Earlier this year, Rush offered to aid Mitchell. Rush told Mitchell in a letter that he was "fully prepared" to intervene if Mitchell needed his help. The subcommittee could use subpoenas - unavailable to Mitchell - to force players to testify.

Any hearing would have to be conducted in a way that addressed steroid use without interfering with Bonds' criminal case, congressional aides said yesterday. Bonds was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with a steroid probe.

Bonds was left off the witness list when another House panel - the Committee on Government Reform - held a March 2005 hearing. At the hearing, former St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire declined to answer questions about performance-enhancing drugs and then-Oriole Rafael Palmeiro, who tested positive for steroids in August 2005, famously shook his finger and denied using the drugs.

Bonds wasn't subpoenaed because it was feared he would dominate the proceedings. Some committee members also worried about summoning him at the same time he was being investigated by law enforcement authorities.

But not all the committee members agreed with the panel's decision. "I think that he should have been invited," longtime committee member Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said at the time.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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