- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 13, 2005

It isn’t at all clear steroid use in baseball requires Congress’ attention. But an attorney for big-league baseball charged the lawmakers need to “satisfy their prurient interest into who may and may not have engaged in this action.”

Congress is as prurient as the next group of people, and Congress has subpoena power. The House Government Reform Committee, in addition to various major-league executives, has subpoenaed seven of baseball’s biggest stars — Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Curt Schilling, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas and Jose Canseco.

According to news accounts, Barry Bonds, the player about whom prurient minds most want to know, was not subpoenaed because he would have drawn all the attention — drawn it, presumably, away from the committee members.

Under public and political pressure, Major League Baseball and its players’ union agreed to a steroids-testing policy in January, and it would seem that eliminating steroid abuse from the game should remain a matter for owners and players.

But Congress doesn’t see it that way. It has also subpoenaed drug-test results going back to 1970. The names will be deleted from the records turned over, but that may still make it difficult to negotiate tougher voluntary standards if the players can’t be guaranteed total confidentiality.

Baseball is fighting the player subpoenas on a number of grounds, principally privacy and an ongoing grand-jury investigation into a lab that allegedly manufactured steroids. But a committee staffer explained, “House rules give this committee the authority to investigate any matter at any time, and we are authorized to request or compel testimony and document production related to any investigation.” In other words, Congress is doing it because Congress can.

The hearings’ ostensible purposes are to educate the public on the dangers of using steroids and to protect American youth. Perhaps there is another reason, commonly described by a word that happens to derive from baseball: grandstanding.

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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