Leaders of the congressional steroid investigation plan to propose a bill governing drug testing in all major U.S. sports, even though members of Congress and National Football League officials agreed that football's anti-drug program is far stronger than that of Major League Baseball.
At a hearing examining the NFL's anti-steroid policy Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and players' union chief Gene Upshaw questioned the need for such a uniform policy.
They said the NFL's management and players are unified in their commitment to fight performance-enhancing drugs and are doing a good job at it.
"As president of the players' association, Troy Vincent (of the Buffalo Bills) fully supports and understands the policy," Upshaw said. "He's in the locker room with his teammates. He understands what's going on."
Despite the disagreement over a uniform drug policy, the five-hour hearing on steroids in football was nothing like the contentious 11-hour session last month when two former major-league sluggers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, refused to answer questions about drug use.
No current players testified at the football hearing. And while members of Congress ripped into baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the ballplayers, they praised the NFL for its cooperation and its efforts.
"Drug-testing experts have long hailed football's testing program as the top of the heap in professional sports," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who chairs the House Government Reform Committee. "But it's not perfect, and that's one of the reasons we're here today."
Davis said the NBA would be called next. In Chicago, NBA commissioner David Stern said league officials "absolutely" would testify if asked.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the list of stimulants that the NFL tests for is much shorter than that used by the International Olympic Committee to test its athletes.
Davis said he and Waxman are working on a bill that would create tough testing standards for all major sports. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is working on similar legislation.
Tagliabue said he prefers the current system because it entails "a special program directed at our sport."
He also disagreed with using the Olympic anti-drug standards as the basis for legislation, saying it would be tantamount to "offshoring our drug program."
Some 111 NFL players have tested positive for steroids since the league instituted its anti-steroid policy in 1989, Tagliabue said. Some 57 of those players retired immediately, and 54 others were suspended for four games.