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Commish confident in seeking common ground

4/27/2005

CHICAGO -- The NBA and its players' union are discussing
expanded testing for performance-enhancing drugs, and commissioner
David Stern said Wednesday he is optimistic it will be part of the
new labor agreement.
The league already tests for recreational drugs and more than a
dozen types of steroids. But with steroid use by professional
athletes and the impact they have on children under increasing
scrutiny, Stern said he believes the NBA should do more.
"I think it's incumbent upon every sport to just have rules
that demonstrate to their fans that, if you're in the NBA, you
submit to a certain amount of testing," Stern said before Game 2
of the Washington Wizards-Chicago Bulls playoff series. "It's
really a covenant with the fans, especially the young ones."
Stern said he didn't have details on what the new testing
program would cover or how it would work. Currently, first-year
players are tested once during training camp and up to three times
during the season, while veterans are tested only at camp unless
there is probable cause for additional testing.
Penalties for positive steroid tests include a five-game
suspension for a first offense, 10 games for a second and 25 for
subsequent offenses.
But Stern said he doesn't think the league and union will have
much disagreement on the issue. The current collective bargaining
agreement expires June 30.
"Of all the things that I would anticipate contentious
negotiations about, I just don't think this is going to be one that
separates us," he said. "We realize what we mean to people and
what obligations we have."
The issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports has been a
hot topic since the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative case unfolded,
and now Congress is involved. Worried that steroid use among pro
athletes encourages youths to try the drugs, the House Government
Reform Committee is examining the testing policies of more than a
half-dozen sports.
The committee began with baseball last month, hearing testimony
from commissioner Bud Selig and superstars like Jose Canseco, Mark
McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The NFL had its turn Wednesday, and the
committee chairman, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said afterward that the
NBA would be next.
The NBA already turned over requested documents about its
drug-testing policy to the committee, and Stern said the league
"absolutely" would testify if asked. The NBA has some time
constraints now, though, with the playoffs and collective
bargaining.
"When the hearings started, I said, 'I don't quite understand
what's going on here,'" Stern said. "As I watched them unfold, I
thought it was an appropriate Congressional oversight topic. It's
getting to be just too important. As a result, we and our players
I'm sure are ready to step up and do it ourselves."
Davis also said he and the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Henry
Waxman of California, are working with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,
on legislation that would put sports' banned substance lists and
testing protocols under the auspices of the White House drug chief,
but might leave penalties up to the leagues.
Stern said he wouldn't object to some kind of universal drug
code. NBA players who play in the Olympics or world championships
already are subject to the World Anti-Doping Agency's code.
"No, I wouldn't mind if the government got involved. But I
think we can do it by ourselves," Stern said. "And we will. At
our cost, and in a way that will make our fans proud of us. But if
the government wanted to get involved at its expense, come on in."