- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008


David Stern was not about to back down.

Summoned again to Capitol Hill to discuss whether Congress should get into the business of legislating drug testing in the major professional sports leagues, the NBA commissioner took exception to lawmakers’ remarks and stood up for his colleagues from the NFL, NHL and major league baseball.

“This is an area where federal legislation is not necessary,” Stern told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Yesterday’s hearing produced the rare sight of the four commissioners and their respective sports’ union heads sitting at the same table.

There were no players at the hearing. Instead, the commissioners sat side-by-side with their sport’s union chiefs: Bud Selig was inches away from Donald Fehr; Stern was next to Billy Hunter. Then there was the NFL’s Roger Goodell and Gene Upshaw, and the NHL’s Gary Bettman and Paul Kelly.

All tried to convince skeptical lawmakers that their respective leagues had taken steps to thwart steroids use and were anxiously awaiting a dependable way to detect human growth hormone, preferably through a urine test and not a blood test.

“In spite of the fact that they want to pronounce that they have it under control, I still think that it’s not fully under control,” said the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat. “And we have to do more.”

Baseball had the most to prove, having implemented a stringent steroids policy only in the last few years. The NFL began addressing the problem some two decades ago, while the NBA and NHL say the nature of their sports is such that steroids use is virtually nonexistent.

All four leagues have toughened their drugs policies since 2005, when many of the same witnesses — including Stern — testified before the same subcommittee. Several bills were introduced in the House and Senate after that session, but none came close to becoming law.

“Let’s get it right this time. … Let’s go ahead and get something into law that is acceptable,” Texas Republican Joe Barton said. “It’s no fun having this hearing every two to three years.”

That’s when Stern interrupted, breaching protocol to point out the progress that has been made.

“The sports leagues have gotten it right in the intervening three years,” Stern said.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn was not fazed.

“Mr. Stern, I would suggest that we have not gotten it right enough,” the Tennessee Republican said. “If we had gotten it right — if you all had gotten it right — we would not be here again today.”

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