Goodell, Upshaw Testify Before Congressional Subcommittee
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association chief Gene Upshaw testified today before a congressional subcommittee examining the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Also testifying were the commissioners and players' union executive directors of the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.
Former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, the author of the report detailing steroid use in baseball, had been scheduled to testify. But Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.), the chairman of the House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection said near the outset of the hearing that Mitchell was unable to attend because he was in New York receiving radiation treatment. It was disclosed last summer that Mitchell has prostate cancer.
The commissioners told the lawmakers that their leagues had taken significant steps to address their problems with performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the subcommittee that he had enacted all the recommendations in Mitchell's report that he could do unilaterally and he'd begun discussions with union chief Donald Fehr about implementing the remaining measures that require the players' approval.
Fehr told the subcommittee that he would consider implementation of blood-testing for human growth hormone if a reliable blood test is developed and a urine test does not exist. Upshaw told the subcommittee that he opposes blood-testing of his players for growth hormone.
The subcommittee members generally praised the commissioners and union chiefs for their efforts and cooperation, but there was one slightly contentious exchange between NBA Commissioner David Stern and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) when she told the sports leaders that they were well-coached by their attorneys in what to say but they needed to be more proactive in helping to find grass-roots solutions to the nation's steroids problem.
"The amount of grass-roots opportunities that all of us participate in... is very extensive," Stern said, and later added: "Enormous progress has been made."
The executives largely urged the lawmakers to leave the formulation of drug-testing policies to the collective bargaining process in each league. The subcommittee is considering possible legislation to standardize drug-testing procedures among the major professional sports.
"I think that they have done what they could do," Rush said during a break in the hearing. "But despite the fact they pronounce it's fully under control, we could do more.... There's nothing concrete we're looking at. At the conclusion of this process, we'll figure out where we are and where we need to be."
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