Lawmakers on the House Government Reform Committee called the NBA's drug-testing policy "a joke," saying it's weaker than the NFL's or baseball's. As the NBA's steroids policy was branded "pathetic" by lawmakers Thursday, the head of a congressional panel said he will propose a law creating drug-testing standards for the four major professional sports leagues.
House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., opened a hearing focusing on the NBA by saying he'll produce a uniform testing bill next week. Davis promised the legislation he's drafting with ranking Democrat Henry Waxman of California and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., "will have more teeth than other bills introduced."
"We're hoping to send a clear message to young people with their own
hoop dreams: Steroid use is harmful even deadly," Davis said, reports CBS' Aleen Sirgany.
Davis didn't go into detail, but Waxman said their legislation would follow the Olympic model and would call for a two-year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.
Testifying before that panel Thursday, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Stearns' bill "is not appropriate to be enacted in its present form ... at least as it applies to the NFL, we feel that it is unnecessary."
Stearns' panel is holding hearings to discuss his proposed legislation, with Tagliabue and NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw appearing Thursday.
CBS News Correspondent Howard Arenstein reports that Tagliabue said professional football doesn't need a federal law to ensure independent drug testing. However, he also said the NFL is ready to cooperate with Congress.
"As commissioner I have no stake in keeping players on the field. I have no stake in who qualifies for the playoffs or who gets to the Super Bowl," he said.
Referring to the proposed bill, Tagliabue said he "would respectfully urge that it not be enacted into law in its present form."
"The drug testing program in the NFL is not a 'problem' that needs federal legislation in order to be 'fixed,'" Tagliabue added in his written testimony.
About 100 yards away, in another wood-paneled hearing room, Davis' committee was hearing Thursday from NBA commissioner David Stern, NBA union leader Billy Hunter, Washington Wizards guard Juan Dixon and Houston Rockets trainer Keith Jones. The lawmakers held hearings on baseball in March and football in April.
"Certainly, the NBA is not suffering under the same cloud of steroid use suspicion that has been hovering over other professional sports," Davis said.
But, he continued, "How do we know for sure there's no steroid problem in the NBA if its testing policies are so weak? If there's little or no upside to using steroids in basketball, why doesn't the NBA have the strongest policy in all of sports?"