WASHINGTON -- Legislation that would set minimum steroid-testing rules and penalties for the four major U.S. professional sports was rubber-stamped Thursday by a House committee.
The Government Reform Committee made no changes before giving its approval to the Clean Sports Act, sponsored by chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican. It's one of two similar bills on the subject; the Drug Free Sports Act is going through the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The two panels will now consult, and it's possible they could combine the bills.
Davis said his panel will hold more hearings. It's had three since March, with witnesses ranging from retired baseball slugger Mark McGwire to the parents of young athletes who committed suicide after using steroids.
"We should move fast, because this is an important health issue," said co-sponsor Henry Waxman of California, the ranking Democrat on Government Reform.
"But ... as we proceed, there will be ample opportunity for consultation and input. And we will be meeting with leagues, players, health experts and others to make sure that all voices are heard and considered."
Based on the Olympic model, the Clean Sports Act would set drug-testing policy for the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. It calls for a two-year ban for a first offense, a lifetime ban for a second, and mandates five tests per athlete each year.
The Drug Free Sports Act is sponsored by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, chairman of an Energy and Commerce subcommittee. His bill calls for the same penalties as Davis', but it requires two tests each year. Stearns' bill would give the secretary of commerce authority over sports' drug-testing policies; Davis' bill gives oversight to the White House drug czar.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the Clean Sports Act in the Senate. He and Davis have said they hope to see Congress vote on the legislation this year.