- John Helyar, Sports Business
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On March 17, 2005, the House Committee on Government Reform held hearings on steroid abuse in major league baseball -- and held some of the game's top players and leaders to account. One year later, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who chaired the hearings, reflects on their results with ESPN.com senior writer John Helyar.
Q. How would you assess the hearings' impact?
A. The verdict is clear. Major League Baseball changed its steroids policy significantly as a result of our hearings and because of draft legislation [on steroids sanctions]. Do there remain deficiencies? Absolutely. But there is a better policy; there are more random tests; there are much stronger penalties. The issue has been highlighted for everyone to see. Kids across America that had turned to steroids now know they're dangerous, that they're illegal and that it's almost shameful to take them at the professional sports level.
Q. What, in addition to what MLB has already done, still needs to be done?
A. First, let's give the policy a chance to work. There were some significant "outings" last year with the policy, particularly with Rafael Palmeiro. Baseball has now suspended players; there's a stigma attached to its use. The marketplace is going to resolve things quicker than anything else. You can just see that now with the outrage over the book on Barry Bonds and what this has done to the fan base. I think we did our job.
Q. Why wasn't Bonds a witness at the hearings?
A. We didn't call him because, just as with Jason Giambi, the Department of Justice asked us not to do it. There was an ongoing investigation; and we, as a rule, try not to interfere with ongoing investigations.
Q. Could the hearings have had even more of an impact than they did if you'd had Bonds on the Hill?
A. Well, yeah, but remember, our goal wasn't to ruin careers. Our goal was not to try and trip him up. It was to highlight a problem, and we did. And given the fact they had an ongoing investigation, it was not appropriate to call him.
Q. Were even you, at the center of this, surprised at some of the things that were said at these hearings and the uproar that ensued? Did it exceed what you thought might transpire?
A. I didn't know what to expect when we went into it. I didn't know how it would turn out. We were surprised when baseball produced their written policy, and it was nothing like what they had said it was. We were more shocked when Rafael Palmeiro tested positive. Before you get into an investigation, you don't know what's going to happen with it. The good news out of this is that baseball changed its policy. When we started this, it looked like baseball had a policy: They weren't going to change it; it was none of our business; and there was a lot of resistance. And there were a lot of commentators who said we had no business doing this kind of thing. We had no idea how it would turn out, but we believed deep down this was the right thing to do.
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