Bill calls for standardized testing, fines for leagues

Updated: October 1, 2005, 12:59 AM ET
Associated Press

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.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press