Lawmaker: Despite progress, steroid law likely

Updated: July 7, 2005, 4:40 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Baseball and other major U.S. professional leagues have made progress battling steroid use but not enough for Congress to back off on legislation, a key Republican lawmaker said Thursday.

"There is certainly movement, but I don't think we are where we need to be yet," said House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis of Virginia, who has sponsored steroid-testing legislation that would subject athletes to two-year bans for a first positive test.

Davis led a round-table discussion with representatives from the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball as well as anti-drug advocates. Baltimore Orioles slugger Rafael Palmeiro took part via conference call.

The hour-long session was closed to reporters.

Afterward, Davis said the discussion focused on how the leagues should test athletes and ways to educate young people on the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. He said he expects Congress will pass some form of legislation.

"I suspect at the end of the day, at a minimum, we'll have some standards that the leagues would all have to meet," Davis said. Amid scrutiny from Congress, some of the leagues have tightened their drug testing policies.

The NFL has increased from two to six the number of random offseason tests a player can face. A first positive test draws a four-game suspension for a player, and a second earns an athlete a six-game suspension.

Baseball banned steroids in September 2002 and instituted mandatory 10-day suspensions this season. Commissioner Bud Selig has suggested that starting in 2006, major league players be given 50-game suspensions for a first positive test for steroids, 100-game penalties for a second positive test and lifetime bans for a third.

The NHL doesn't test for performance-enhancing drugs, but plans call for random testing and discipline in a new collective bargaining agreement.

The NBA's new collective bargaining deal increases penalties for steroid violators, from five to 10 games for a first offense, 25 games for a second, one year for a third offense and a lifetime ban for a fourth.

Two anti-steroid bills are pending in the House -- one sponsored by Davis and ranking committee Democrat Henry Waxman of California; the other sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican who chairs a House Commerce and Energy subcommittee.

Besides the two-year ban for first time offenders, Davis' bill sets a lifetime ban for a second violation. The legislation proposed by Stearns calls for an athlete to be suspended half the season for the first offense, a full season for the second, and a lifetime ban for a third offense.

Friday's round-table was the first in a series of discussions the Government Reform Committee plans this year.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press