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Bill calls for standardized testing, fines for leagues

10/1/2005

WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the powerful House Judiciary
Committee has entered the fray over steroids in sports, calling for
new federal testing standards and fines for leagues that fail to
meet them.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner's bill, introduced with the committee's
top Democrat, John Conyers of Michigan, calls for the Justice
Department to establish a Federal Office of Steroids Testing
Enforcement and Prevention. Under the measure, the attorney general
could fine leagues $5 million for failing to meet federal
standards, and would make recommendations to Congress to revoke tax
and other benefits to leagues that don't comply.

The legislation would apply to the major professional baseball,
basketball, football and hockey leagues, but would give the
attorney general the authority to broaden it to college sports as
well.

"The time has come for the attorney general to establish
steroid testing procedures and penalties that the leagues should
follow," Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said Friday.

Sensenbrenner said he'd hold hearings on the bill this fall.

Congress already is considering two Senate and three House bills
that would standardize drug policies across sports.

Those bills are based on the Olympic model and call for a
two-year ban the first time an athlete fails a drug test and a
lifetime ban for a second offense. Sensenbrenner's legislation
doesn't specify penalties or number of tests to which players would
be subject. The bill would leave those determinations up to the
attorney general.

The measure marks a change for Sensenbrenner. Last year, he told
The Associated Press that he disagreed with legislative threats to
force baseball players to agree to tougher steroid testing. At the
time, he said Congress should not be "super-arbiters" of
collective bargaining disputes between leagues and unions.

His spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said Sensenbrenner remains
concerned about a heavy-handed government approach to labor
disputes. But he said that because steroids are illegal, it made
sense to give the attorney general increased authority and
responsibility.

Threats of congressional action helped push baseball
commissioner Bud Selig to propose toughening baseball's steroid
testing program. This week, baseball union head Donald Fehr told a
Senate committee that a deal for stronger penalties could be in
place within a month.

Selig is on record as preferring that the union and sport work
out a tougher deal on their own, but has said he would support
legislation if that was not possible.