House committee wary of loopholes

Updated: July 27, 2005, 7:04 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The drug policy in the NHL's new labor deal was criticized for "loopholes" and "inadequate testing" by the heads of the congressional committee that grilled Mark McGwire and has proposed legislating steroid testing in pro sports.

House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, and ranking Democrat Henry Waxman of California wrote a letter Wednesday to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players' Association executive director Bob Goodenow, detailing concerns about the league's steroid program.

Before last week's ratification of a collective bargaining agreement that ended a season-long lockout, the NHL didn't test for performance-enhancing drugs.

"In that sense," the congressmen wrote, "the new policy represents a positive step. However, we have serious concerns about the effectiveness of this new policy. It appears to contain numerous loopholes that might allow players to circumvent the testing regime."

The lawmakers faulted the NHL program for calling for "up to two" tests rather than mandating a minimum number, for not having an independent administrator, and for limiting testing to training camp through the regular season.

"We have received the letter. We disagree with several assertions made in the letter, and we will respond in due course," NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur said.

Other complaints in the letter include that tests won't occur on game days and must be done on the day of a scheduled practice, that there isn't a "clear and comprehensive" list of banned substances, and that there can't be testing for designer steroids.

Davis and Waxman have held hearings with current or former players and management and union officials from various sports, and they proposed a bill that would govern drug-testing and punishment for the four major U.S. professional leagues.

The measure would call for a two-year ban for a first positive test and a lifetime ban for a second.

"Your efforts to develop your own policy appear to be inadequate and to provide additional evidence of the need for our legislation," Davis and Waxman wrote Wednesday.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press