WASHINGTON (AP) – The NFL would have liked a chance to offer its opinion on steroid-testing legislation introduced by Sen. John McCain and Rep. Tom Davis before the proposed bill is looked at Thursday by a House committee.

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.

Davis is the chairman of the Government Reform Committee, which held hearings on steroids in baseball, football and basketball, with witnesses ranging from Mark McGwire to the parents of a high school athlete who committed suicide after using steroids. The bill was proposed Tuesday; the committee will consider making changes and decide Thursday whether it should move closer to a vote by the full House.

“We’re concerned that we did not have an opportunity to comment on the legislation before tomorrow’s committee vote. We think there are aspects of this bill that will diminish our program, and other aspects of the bill, including the two-year suspension for the first offense, that are not applicable to our sport,” NFL spokesman Joe Browne said Wednesday at the league’s owner meetings. “Unlike the Olympics, we play every year, not every four years.”

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said he hadn’t seen Davis’ proposed legislation. He also said the league, which recently tripled to six the number of offseason tests a player is subject to, doesn’t plan on changing its policy in a bid to avoid legislation.

“We feel we’re doing everything we could do,” Tagliabue said.

In a separate attempt to legislate steroid-testing policies for sports, a House Commerce and Energy subcommittee approved changes to another bill Wednesday, including calling for two tests instead of one per athlete each year.

The Drug Free Sports Act was introduced last month by Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican who chairs the subcommittee.

Other tweaks include allowing the Commerce Secretary to tailor the list of banned substances to each sport, and adding the possibility of reduced penalties if an athlete proves he didn’t know he was taking an illegal substance.

If enacted, that bill would apply to the four leagues covered by Davis’ bill, plus Major League Soccer and the Arena Football League.

“The message our young athletes get today is that the Breakfast of Champions’ is chock full of juice,” said the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, offered and then withdrew an amendment to Stearns’ bill that would have changed the penalties to a half-season suspension for a first offense, a full-season suspension for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third. A similar change could be reconsidered when the bill is put before the full Commerce and Energy Committee, expected early next month.

“Markey’s idea of three strikes and you’re out’ is a good approach,” Stearns said. “We might want to have it vary, depending upon sports.”

Right now, a first failed test draws a 10-day ban in baseball, a five-game ban in the NBA and a four-game ban in the NFL.

The NHL doesn’t test players for performance-enhancing drugs.

AP-ES-05-25-05 1844EDT


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