by Writer Team | May 25, 2005 7:18 pm
New legislation set to be presented before House committee Thursday would set new drug-testing policy for professional sports. The NFL, NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball would have to test each of its athletes five times a year, with severe penalties for those who pop positive: Two year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.
Representative Tom Davis, the Chairman of the Government Reform Committee which has held hearings on anabolic steroid use, along with Senator John McCain introduced the new bill, based on the Olympic model.
However, the NFL says it did not have the opportunity to comment on the new bill. Joe Browne, NFL spokesman, said Wednesday, “Unlike the Olympics, we play every year, not every four years.”
Paul Tagliabue, NFL Commissioner, said he hadn’t even seen the bill, but that the league is not planning to change its policy to avoid the new legislation.
A House Commerce and energy subcommittee approved changes to a different bill on Wednesday, which calls for two tests instead of just one per athlete per year. This bill, called the Drug Free Sports Act, was introduced last month by Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who also chairs the subcommittee.
If that bill should pass, it would affect the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. The Commerce Secretary would then be permitted to change the list of banned drugs per sport, and should a player prove that he didn’t know the substance was illegal, the penalties could be reduced.
Representative Edward Markey of Massachusettes, suggested an amendment to the Stearn’s bill that would have allowed a more lenient “three strikes” clause. The penalties would be half-season for a first offense, full-season suspension for a second, and lifetime ban for a third, and Stearn seemed to be accepting of this idea.
“Markey’s idea of ‘three strikes and you’re out’ is a good approach,” Stearns said. “We might want to have it vary, depending upon sports.”
Currently, the penalties for steriod use are a 10-day ban in Major League Baseball, four games in the NFL and five games in the NBA. The NHL doesn’t yet test its athletes, but that may be changing soon dependant upon the outcome of the House vote.
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