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Tuesday, April 5, 2005
NBA, NHL, MLS, ATP among those queried

ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Congressmen looking into steroids in sports sent letters Tuesday to the heads of the NBA, NHL and five other groups asking for information about their drug-testing policies.

The House Government Reform Committee sent a similar request to the NFL last week.

"This is the compare-and-contrast phase of the investigation," said David Marin, spokesman for committee chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican.

During the panel's 11-hour hearing on steroids in baseball last month -- with Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and commissioner Bud Selig among the witnesses -- several lawmakers threatened federal legislation to govern drug testing in baseball and possibly all U.S. sports.

The seven letters sent Tuesday were addressed to NBA commissioner David Stern, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, ATP CEO Mark Miles, Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, U.S. Soccer Federation president Bob Contiguglia, USA Track & Field CEO Craig Masback and USA Cycling CEO Gerard Bisceglia.

"As the committee has stated publicly numerous times, its focus on the issue of performance-enhancing drug use in sports is not limited to professional baseball," Davis and the panel's ranking Democrat, Henry Waxman of California, said in the letter.

"The hearing was the first in a series for the committee as part of its ongoing investigation into steroid policies for professional and amateur sports."

"These are probably not the last letters," said Waxman spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot, who added that the NCAA should receive a similar request soon.

The officials were given an April 12 deadline for turning over copies of their sports' current and past drug-testing policies and information about how those were negotiated.

The committee also asked for information such as the number of drug tests each year, the number of positive results and which substances are tested for. The letters specified that the committee wants "summary information, and does not require identification of individual players."

"A majority of this stuff is already up on our Web site, and anything that's not we'll be more than happy to supply them," ATP spokesman David Higdon said. "The deadline's a little tight, but we'll do all we can."

USA Track & Field confirmed that it received a letter from Davis and Waxman, requesting basic details of USATF's anti-doping policies and drug testing.

"We welcome the opportunity to provide this information to the Committee, and we will provide them with all information we have available, which dates back to the 1980s, in order to fulfill their request," Masback said in a USATF statement.

USATF, and all other U.S. Olympic sports, turned drug testing and punishment over to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2000. USATF, often accused in the past of overlooking or hiding drug offenses, has recommended that first-time offenders receive a lifetime ban. Track athletes can be suspended based on evidence even if they have not tested positive. Two such cases, for world 100-meter record holder Tim Montgomery and sprinter Chryste Gaines, will be heard this summer by the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The NHL does not test players for performance-enhancing drugs, while first-time offenders are suspended for five games in the NBA. Tennis, cycling and track and field follow International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency standards, including a minimum two-year ban for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.

"We're so far ahead of baseball we're unconcerned," Higdon said.

Drug testing for USSF is covered by FIFA, soccer's governing body, and the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The committee's letter to sports bodies