Players association confirms appearance

WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards guard Juan Dixon will
testify before Congress on Thursday, the only athlete slated to
appear when two House committees hold separate hearings on steroid use and testing in major pro sports.

Lawmakers on one panel already proposed a bill to govern
drug-testing in sports; the leaders of the other plan to join Sen.
John McCain in introducing legislation this week.

Dixon, who led Maryland to the 2002 NCAA title, was one of five
NBA players asked to appear at the House Government Reform
Committee hearing Thursday. NBA commissioner David Stern, players' union director Billy Hunter, and Houston Rockets trainer Keith Jones will be at that panel's third hearing on steroids, after
Major League Baseball in March and the NFL last month.

The House Commerce trade and consumer protection subcommittee is
conducting its own steroids inquiry and will hold hearings
Wednesday and Thursday. Stern, Major League Baseball commissioner
Bud Selig, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Major League Soccer
commissioner Don Garber and union officials are among the witnesses
scheduled to appear.

That subcommittee's chairman, Florida Republican Cliff Stearns,
proposed the Drug Free Sports Act on April 26. That bill would have
the Commerce Secretary oversee drug-testing rules and calls for a
two-year suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a
second. Leagues that don't comply would be fined $5 million.

"It would be easier for the sports if they would work with us,
instead of against us," Stearns said Tuesday in a telephone

"One purpose [of the hearings] is to ask these commissioners and the union people why they should not be subject to the same standards that are used in the Olympics. The burden is on them to explain why. The second purpose is to get their views on the bill and ask them for suggestions to make it more palatable to their way of thinking so we can just get an understanding of what they would accept."

Selig said Monday he would support federal legislation calling
for two-year bans for first-time steroid offenses unless the Major
League Baseball Players Association agrees to toughen the sport's
drug policy.

``Unfortunately, sometimes you have to legislate at the federal level -- if not to solve the problem, at least to begin to address it. I'm not saying the Stearns bill is the perfect bill, but it is
a strong bill. There could be changes, but I think something
similar to that could become law,'' said Energy and Commerce
Committee chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican.

Stearns said he might invite athletes to attend future hearings.

On Monday night, Government Reform Committee spokesman Dave Marin said the NBA players were asked to testify because they've been quoted in media reports as saying the league doesn't have a steroid problem.

Marin wouldn't identify them, other than to describe them as current players whose teams are not alive in the playoffs. Dixon is a reserve for the Wizards, who were eliminated in the postseason's
second round by the Miami Heat on Saturday.

NBA Players Association spokesman Dan Wasserman, agent Bill Duffy and Marin confirmed Dixon would appear.

Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia
Republican, and ranking Democrat Henry Waxman of California have
asked the NBA and other leagues to turn over documents about their
steroid-testing programs. Marin said Monday the committee found
"Shaquille O'Neal-sized holes" in the NBA's policy. He cited the
rule that veterans are tested once a year during the preseason.

Wasserman noted that veterans are subject to reasonable-cause
testing year-round, and rookies face four random tests a season.

"Over the last seven years, of the approximately 400 rookies
who have been tested randomly, not one of them has violated the
steroid policy -- zero for 400," Wasserman said. "One could argue
that there is no evidence of any kind of use of steroids by NBA

The NBA currently suspends first-time offenders of its steroids
policy for five games. Two players are believed to have been
suspended for steroid use since the NBA implemented its current
policy in 1999.

Stern has said he would like to strengthen testing for
performance-enhancing drugs in the league's new collective
bargaining agreement.