- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Sen. John McCain said yesterday he will introduce legislation next month if the representatives of major league baseball’s players and owners do not tighten the sport’s drug-testing policy “to restore the integrity of baseball.”

“I warned them a long time ago that we needed to fix this problem,” McCain told reporters at Andrews Air Force Base after attending the Army-Navy football game with President Bush. “It’s time for them to sit down together and act. And that’s what they should do. If not, clearly we have to act legislatively, which we don’t want to do.”

The Arizona Republican said he will introduce a stand-alone bill but added that if necessary, “We can add it as an amendment on most anything.”

McCain was spurred to action after hearing that single-season home run champion Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants has been linked to steroid use but said the problem is far bigger.

“It’s the entire revelation. It’s not just Bonds but [also] Marion Jones,” he said, referring to the sprinter who tested positive for drug use before this year’s Olympic Games.

The long-simmering steroid accusations hit the headlines last week with reports of grand jury testimony in San Francisco that linked such stars as Bonds and New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi to steroid use. The San Francisco Chronicle was able to review sealed transcripts containing the testimony of Bonds, Giambi and the Yankees’ Gary Sheffield.

“I don’t care about Bonds or Sheffield or anybody else. What I care about are high school athletes who are tempted to use steroids because they think that’s the only way they can make it in the major leagues,” McCain said.

In an interview televised Friday night on ABC’s “20/20,” the head of a nutritional supplements lab implicated in the story added the names of top track and football stars to those he said had used illegal substances.

Victor Conte, head of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO), said he didn’t know whether Bonds had used steroids.

McCain said he watched that interview, “and it’s very clear that there was a number of people involved in this.”

He demanded quick action by baseball commissioner Bud Selig and players’ union executive director Don Fehr to solve the problem.

“To restore the integrity of baseball, commissioner Selig and Don Fehr must meet immediately — not merely by spring training as the commissioner has promised — and agree to implement a drug-testing policy that is at least as stringent as the one observed by the minor league program,” McCain said Friday in a statement.

It is unclear how much support such a proposal would have in Congress. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican, complained last year that McCain’s idea would rewrite baseball’s collective bargaining agreement.

But the push against steroid use will have support from the top. Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers, believes so strongly that the game must police the drug that he included the topic in his last State of the Union address.

Selig said he is committed to ridding baseball of performance-enhancing substances and is demanding that the players’ association adopt a stronger testing policy modeled after the minor leagues’ more stringent program.

“The use of these substances continues to raise issues regarding the game’s integrity and raises serious concerns about the health and well-being of our players,” Selig said.

The union declined comment last week but has said it is willing to discuss the drug policy with management. The current policy was adopted in September 2002 and runs until December 2006.

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