With no action by baseball, steroids bill re-introduced

WASHINGTON -- Aiming to spur baseball and other sports to
adopt tougher steroids policies, Sens. Jim Bunning and John McCain
are reintroducing legislation that would standardize drug testing
and penalties for professional leagues.

The new bill combines two already proposed separately by
Bunning, a Kentucky Republican who was elected to baseball's Hall
of Fame in 1996, and McCain, an Arizona Republican. Bunning, a
former major league pitcher, said the new legislation would be
introduced Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We have heard a lot of talk from professional sports leagues
that they would do something to clean up this mess, but so far it
has been just that: a lot of talk," Bunning said Tuesday during a
conference call with reporters. "Hopefully Congress' action will
light a fire under their feet to come to an agreement before we do
it for them."

Like the earlier bills from Bunning and McCain, this one is
based on the Olympic model, calling for a two-year suspension for
an athlete who fails a steroids test for the first time and a
lifetime ban for a second offense. Athletes would be tested at
least five times a year, three during the season and two in the
offseason. The proposal has a provision urging leagues to erase
records achieved with the help of performance-enhancing drugs.

Three House bills with similar testing minimums and punishments
have been proposed, including one sponsored by Tom Davis, the
Virginia Republican who chairs the Government Reform Committee.
That panel held the March 17 hearing with Rafael Palmeiro, Mark
McGwire and baseball officials.

"If pro sports leagues don't get a handle on this problem on
their own, members of Congress will be more than willing to do it
for them," Davis spokesman Dave Marin wrote in an e-mail to The
Associated Press. "No matter which bill ultimately moves forward,
one thing is certain: In the absence of self-initiated progress,
legislation becomes a matter of when, not if."

During congressional hearings on steroids over the past eight
months, the focus has been on baseball, and while Bunning's bill
would also apply to the NFL, NBA and NHL, the timing of the
reintroduction is tied to last week's end of the World Series.

Baseball currently suspends a player 10 days for a first
offense. In April, commissioner Bud Selig called for a 50-game
suspension after an initial positive test, a 100-game ban for
second-time offenders and a lifetime ban for a third violation.

Under questioning from McCain at a Senate Commerce Committee
hearing Sept. 28, baseball players union head Donald Fehr said he
hoped a new steroids agreement could be reached by the end of the
World Series.

"Well, the World Series has come and gone, and they still have
not come to an agreement, so we're going to move ahead in
Congress," Bunning said. "It's my opinion that Major League
Baseball and the players union will not come to an agreement that's

Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred issued a statement
Tuesday reiterating Selig's stances: His proposed penalties would
be appropriate, changes to the sport's policy should come through
collective bargaining, and Selig would support legislation if
baseball and the union can't reach agreement.

Fehr declined comment Tuesday, spokesman Greg Bouris said.

During the World Series, Selig and the union's chief operating
officer, Gene Orza, said negotiations on a new steroids agreement
were ongoing, but both refused to comment further. Last year, the
union didn't go ahead with finalizing a new drug-testing agreement
until after its annual executive board meeting in early December.
This year's session is scheduled for Dec. 5-9 in Henderson, Nev.