- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2005

The leader of a congressional inquiry into steroid use by major league baseball players said yesterday that undercover agents also are investigating similar cases of potential drug abuse by amateur and other professional athletes.

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, exposed the undercover operation during an interview with Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We are doing other investigations undercover into professional and amateur sports,” said Davis, Virginia Republican. “We consider steroid abuse to still be rampant. And we’re going to have a lot more to say.”

Later yesterday, baseball players and owners agreed to drop the option of only fining players for steroid use from the draft of a new anti-steroid policy. Players who test positive will be suspended.

Rob Manfred, baseball’s executive vice president for labor relations, said “we do have an agreement” with union chief Donald Fehr to eliminate the fine option, one of the criticisms lawmakers made Thursday in an 11-hour hearing before Davis’ committee.

“It will be just the straight suspension. … To the degree there was any doubt, I think this change should put to rest any concerns in that regard,” Manfred told reporters in New York.

The original draft allowed players to remain anonymous and to be fined instead of suspended for failing a drug test. Members on both sides of the political aisle want stronger drug testing rules in line with the International Olympic Committee policy.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, held hearings last year on steroid use and said yesterday legislation may be needed to force a change in the drug-testing policy.

“It just seems to me they can’t be trusted,” McCain told ABC’s “This Week.”

“I was a little dubious about the necessity of having hearings because I had been told that baseball had installed a weak but legitimate regimen,” McCain said. “I now applaud my colleagues in the House because what this highlighted was the absolute insensitivity of both the owners and the players to the American people.”

The committee held an 11-hour hearing Thursday to examine steroid use by major league players and demanded testimony from executives and players, but Davis’ words on CBS yesterday were the first indication of a broad undercover probe.

“Does organized baseball know you’re doing undercover hearings — investigations?” Schieffer asked.

“They do now,” Davis responded. “It’s not just baseball. I mean, it’s amateur sports. It’s professional sports. But I think they’ll find out.”

Manfred appeared with Davis on CBS and said it was the first he has heard of an ongoing undercover investigation.

“Look, obviously the committee has the authority to conduct investigations. We understand that steroids are an illegal substance in the United States, and anybody who uses those substances is obviously at risk, not only under our policies, but, more importantly, under the laws of the United States,” Manfred said.

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