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 interview.
"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 players."
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press