Click here for video of this hearing.
STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN SENATOR TED STEVENS
I THANK THE DISTINGUISHED WITNESSES WHO ARE HERE TODAY, AND I WELCOME IN ADDITION SEVERAL MEMBERS OF THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME. AND, BY THE WAY, FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT PROFESSIONAL SPORTS DOES NOT HAVE AN IMPACT ON THE AMERICAN PUBLIC AND OUR YOUTH, I WOULD POINT OUT THAT A MEMBER OF MY STAFF, AARON SAUNDERS, WAS NAMED AFTER YOU MR. AARON AFTER HIS FATHER WITNESSED YOUR 714TH HOME RUN IN CINCINNATI IN 1974.
I THANK SENATOR McCAIN FOR ASKING TO CHAIR THIS HEARING AND FOR HIS COMMITMENT TO DEMANDING FAIR COMPETITION AT ALL LEVELS OF SPORT. I ALSO WELCOME AS A GUEST MEMBER OF THE COMMITTEE SENATOR BUNNING WHOSE BASEBALL CAREER AND DEDICATION TO PRESERVING THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
AS SOMEONE WHO PUSHED FOR THE CREATION OF THE U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AND WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH SPORTS ISSUES IN THE SENATE FOR OVER 37 YEARS, I HAVE GROWN INCREASINGLY CONCERNED WITH THE DRAMATIC INCREASE IN DOPING AT ALL LEVELS OF ATHLETICS, PARTICULARLY AMONG OUR YOUTH.
IN A 2003 SURVEY OF OVER 15,000 HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, THE U.S. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL FOUND THAT MORE THAN SIX PERCENT OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ADMITTED TO USING NON-PRESCRIPTION ILLEGAL STEROIDS AT SOME POINT IN THEIR LIVES. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.
DOPING IS A STAIN ON ALL LEVELS OF ATHLETICS. IT TAINTS THE ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF OUR ELITE ATHLETES, CREATES UNATTAINABLE EXPECTATIONS FOR OUR YOUNG ATHLETES, AND THREATENS THEIR PHYSICAL WELL BEING.
I COMMEND ALL OF THE LEAGUES FOR ADDRESSING THEIR DRUG PROGRAMS OVER THE PAST 18 MONTHS. BUT I BELIEVE THAT THERE ARE TWO KEY ELEMENTS TO AN EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICY - DETERRENCE AND THE CREDIBILITY OF THE PROGRAM. WE WOULD NOT BE HOLDING THIS HEARING TODAY IF ALL OF YOUR POLICIES SATISFIED THESE THRESHOLD ELEMENTS.
I LOOK FORWARD TO WORKING WITH SENATORS MCCAIN AND BUNNING, AND THE REST OF THE COMMITTEE, TO REPORT LEGISLATION TO THE FULL SENATE FOR CONSIDERATION.
STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN McCAIN
I thank the Chairman of the Committee for agreeing to hold this hearing and for the courtesy of the gavel this morning. I also thank the witnesses for appearing before the Committee.
Boiled down to its essence, today’s hearing – like many that this Committee has had before – is about a form of cheating that is not just unsportsmanlike but dangerous. We are not talking about corked bats or juiced balls; we are talking about the ingestion of harmful substances that cause tremendous damage, especially to the bodies and minds of kids unfortunate enough to take them. This isn’t hyperbole – it’s a statement of scientific fact.
The list of side effects of these substances is long and, hopefully by now, well known: stunted growth, scarring acne, hormonal imbalances, liver and kidney damage, as well as an increased risk of heart disease and stroke later in life. Psychologically, steroids have been associated with increased aggression, suicide, and a higher propensity to commit serious crimes.
We are also talking about a type of cheating that rips the credibility of sports to shreds. Some of the cases we have all read about involve players injecting themselves with substances and turning to shady so-called doctors or medical experts like junkies looking for their next fix. This is not what sports should be about. This should not even be a matter of debate either between Congress and professional sports or between the leagues and their players’ unions. It is shameful that professional sports cannot on their own and without external pressure write and enforce policies that are beyond reproach. Though all four leagues testifying today have recently taken steps – some bigger than others – to improve their programs in recent months, many aspects of their policies still need improvement. So, here we are again in a hearing that brings to mind the great Yogi Berra – “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
I introduced the Clean Sports Act of 2005 in May to continue bringing attention to this issue, and with the hope of encouraging professional sports – all American sports – to keep up the fight against performance enhancing substances. The legislation would establish minimum drug testing standards for the leagues. It is based on the testing procedures of the Olympic movement, which anti-doping experts call the gold standard of performance enhancing drug testing. It is also an effort to introduce more independence to drug testing in professional sports. Anti-doping organizations like the United States Anti-Doping Agency consider true independence an essential component of a credible and effective policy. Senator Bunning’s legislation seeks the same goals, and I appreciate his efforts on this important issue. As a baseball Hall of Famer, his opinion is both welcomed and respected.
As I have said before, I introduced the legislation reluctantly, but if legislation is what is needed to shore up the integrity of professional sports, then I will certainly push for its passage. For example, if Major League Baseball cannot reach agreement on the very modest three-strikes proposal made by Commissioner Selig – which falls short of the two-strikes Olympic standard that is in my legislation – then that will be a clear signal that legislation is warranted.
Before turning to the witnesses I would like to recognize members of baseball’s Hall of Fame who are here with us today, and I would ask if they wish to make a brief statement to the Committee after the other senators on this panel make their opening remarks.
# # #
Senator Jim Bunning
STATEMENT BY U.S. SENATOR JIM BUNNING
SENATE COMMERCE COMMITTEE HEARING ON STEROIDS LEGISLATION
SEPTEMBER 28, 2005
First, I want to thank Chairman Stevens and Senator McCain for the opportunity to be a guest member for this hearing. Second, I – and probably most of the other members in congress – do not relish the situation we are in. That situation is being on the brink of possibly passing legislation to clean up something that the sports leagues and players' unions should be able to clean up on their own. But for whatever reason, you just cannot get your act together and get the job done. It is impressive and amazing what you all can do. You can come to agreements on collective bargaining and salaries – and aspects of free agency and trading. And a host of other issues. But for whatever reason, some of you just cannot strike a deal on testing and penalties for illegal drug use. And I – and millions of fans – think that is pathetic. Since we cannot be in the clubhouse to try and get to the bottom of all this, we thought we would bring you into this committee room. We apologize for not having any showers in here. And Lord knows we all may need one after this hearing to cool down, because it just might get a little uncomfortable in here. My focus is going to be on baseball – not just because I once wore the uniform, but because that is where there seems to be the biggest problem. Baseball’s commissioner has put forward a drug testing and penalties proposal. While I am not 100% in agreement with it – it is a start. While I think the commissioner took too long to put forward his plan, I realize he had to deal with owners and build somewhat of a consensus with them. At times I am sure it was kind of like herding cats for the commissioner. But the baseball players' union has not exactly been timely and pro-active in addressing the steroids issue. I know a bit about baseball’s players' union – because I and some of my former baseball colleagues helped start it. Yes, for the record – this conservative republican helped form a union. Back then, it was all about making sure players had fair salaries and fair pensions. These were important issues to help protect active players and retirees. But now? But now – whether it is true or not – the perception is that the baseball players' union is protecting players to use steroids and other illegal performance enhancing drugs. Believe me – that was not something we ever envisioned the players' union to do. And I hope it is not what the union is doing now. I see some of my fellow Hall of Famers here today. And thank goodness I spent part of my career in the American league – and did not have to pitch to Hank Aaron during my full career. I know they are concerned about steroids – and not just from how they affect the integrity of the game and the way they distort statistics and demean records. But we are concerned about the grave health affects of these drugs – and the message they send to our youth who see players as heroes and want to emulate them. Our kids see the smashing home runs. And they feel the pressure to perform. Unfortunately, too many of them are injecting themselves or popping a pill with false hopes and dangerous health effects. And we all have a duty in here to help bring that to an end. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. Donald Fehr
Mr. Antonio DavisNBA Player and PresidentNational Basketball Players Association
Mr. Ted SaskinExecutive DirectorNational Hockey League Players Association
Mr. Paul J. TagliabueCommissionerNational Football League
Mr. Gary BettmanCommissionerNational Hockey League
Mr. Allan H. Selig
Mr. Gene UpshawExecutive DirectorNational Football League Players Association
Please see Mr. Tagliabue's testimony. The NFL and NFLPA submitted joint testimony.
Mr. David SternCommissionerNational Basketball Association