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House members as 'upset at the end' as the beginning

3/18/2005

WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball, take note: Congress
will be keeping a close eye on you.

Far from satisfied after an 11-hour hearing about steroids,
lawmakers said Friday they will consider drawing up legislation to
make changes to baseball's drug-testing policy if the sport fails
to act on its own.

"Management and the players never stepped up to the plate,"
said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "It became clear that baseball
remains in denial about the scope of the problem and the defects in
its deeply flawed testing policy. 'Trust baseball' isn't going to
work anymore."

Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform
Committee, which summoned baseball players and executives to
Capitol Hill on Thursday for what turned into a daylong show.

Retired slugger Mark McGwire repeatedly refused to say under
oath whether he took steroids, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said
the game didn't have a major steroid problem, and lawmakers
threatened federal legislation to govern drug testing in baseball
and possibly all U.S. sports.

"The members of Congress were as upset at the end of the
hearing as they were at the beginning," said committee member Mark
Souder, R-Ind.

McGwire's testimony was still a big topic Friday. Committee
member William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., wants McGwire's name removed from
a highway in Missouri, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency
called the former slugger's evasions tantamount to an admission of
steroid use, and Christopher Shays, R-Conn., put it most bluntly:
"Is there any doubt in your mind that Mark McGwire took drugs?"

But the lawmakers also had more on their minds.

A spokesman for chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said Friday the
committee "will be closely monitoring" whether Selig and union
head Donald Fehr make changes to the drug plan owners and players
drew up in January after pressure from Congress.

"Will they live up to their pledge and make this policy what
they originally represented it to be? If so, the likelihood of
another hearing diminishes," spokesman David Marin said. "We plan
on having regular contact with MLB and the union for some time.
Hopefully, now we'll get our calls returned."

The panel is already investigating how easily steroids can be
obtained, and there are plans for follow-up hearings in coming
months looking into steroid use in other pro and college sports.

Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., said it might already be time for
Congress to "do their dirty work and come up with a policy that
will guarantee the integrity of baseball."

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor
relations, didn't return telephone messages Friday. Fehr said he
will "convey the events of the hearing" to players.

President Bush, who in his State of the Union address in 2004
called for a crackdown on steroids, does not believe that federal
intervention is the right route, press secretary Scott McClellan
said Friday.

But a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held its own,
lower-profile, hearing on steroids in sports last week, and its
chairman said Friday more could come. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla.,
did echo Souder and others in expressing hope that congressional
action isn't needed.

"Does Congress want to do anything? Probably not. Our
preference is to let them do it on their own," Stearns said. "But
based on what we heard from Major League Baseball, it looks like
they won't do anything unless Congress either requires it or
continues to push them."

At spring training in Kissimmee, Fla., Atlanta Braves catcher
and union representative Johnny Estrada called Thursday's hearing a
waste of time.

"We don't need the government coming in trying to police our
sport. We can do it ourselves," he said. "We have a program in
place. We just need to give it a chance to work."