WASHINGTON -- Major League Baseball should enforce stronger
rules against steroid abuse by players on its own, but Congress
will require changes by law if necessary, leading lawmakers said
Sen. John McCain, the driving force behind changing how baseball
polices performance-enhancing drug use, said Sunday he believes
President Bush would sign a bill into law.
"There's not a doubt in my mind. He'd love to," said McCain,
who accompanied Bush to Saturday's Army-Navy college football game
He added that Bush, too, would prefer for baseball to act on its
own. "I know that the president would like to see it done through
collective bargaining and decision made by owners and labor," said
Other lawmakers, including the top Republican in the Senate and
the House's top Democrat, expressed similar sentiments as cries
grew louder for baseball to act.
The executive board of the players' union starts its annual meeting Monday in Phoenix with the steroid issue on its agenda.
"Obviously, the steroids issue is something that was going to
come up in our board meeting," union head Donald Fehr said Sunday.
"That would have been the case quite apart from this."
Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, and Rob Manfred,
executive vice president of labor relations in the commissioner's
office, have met several times since May to discuss Selig's call
for more frequent testing and harsher penalties. Publicly, the
union has shown a willingness only to discuss changes, not to make them.
"We've had ongoing discussions with the union," Manfred said.
"We feel a great sense of urgency to complete the discussions, and
we hope the union has the same sense."
The matter has become urgent since the San Francisco Chronicle
reported last week details of players' testimony to a federal grand
jury that indicted four people on charges of illegally distributing
steroids to top athletes.
One of those indicted was the personal trainer of the San
Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds, whose 73 home runs in 2001 is the
game's single-season record and who is 53 homers away from breaking
Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755. Bonds told the grand jury he
used a cream and a clear substance but said he didn't know they
were forbidden substances.
The indictments were instrumental in Congress's passage of
anti-steroid legislation that President Bush signed into law in
October. It curtailed sales of steroid precursors, expanded the
list of banned anabolic steroids and established a grant program to
teach young people about the dangers of steroids.
"The important aspect of this issue is not Barry Bonds" or
other big names, McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee,
said on "Fox News Sunday."
"The important aspect of this issue is that high school kids
all over America believe that this is the only way they can make
it. Ask any high school coach."
Appearing on other Sunday talk shows, the House minority leader
and the Senate majority leader agreed that the best solution would
be for baseball to require stronger testing but said they would
support legislation if the league failed to act on its own.
"They have a responsibility, not only to the sport, but to the
children of America who look up to these players," Rep. Nancy
Pelosi, D-Calif., said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "Quite
frankly, it's overdue."
Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the problem "could be ended,
bang, just like that, if everybody from the owners to the unions
just step up and face the reality that we've got a huge problem."
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," Frist said, "I'll support
being very aggressive if it cannot be addressed at the more local
level, which again, I would much prefer."