House committee wary of loopholes

WASHINGTON -- The drug policy in the NHL's new labor deal
was criticized for "loopholes" and "inadequate testing" by the
heads of the congressional committee that grilled Mark McGwire and
has proposed legislating steroid testing in pro sports.
House Government Reform Committee chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia
Republican, and ranking Democrat Henry Waxman of California wrote a
letter Wednesday to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players'
Association executive director Bob Goodenow, detailing concerns
about the league's steroid program.
Before last week's ratification of a collective bargaining
agreement that ended a season-long lockout, the NHL didn't test for
performance-enhancing drugs.
"In that sense," the congressmen wrote, "the new policy
represents a positive step. However, we have serious concerns about
the effectiveness of this new policy. It appears to contain
numerous loopholes that might allow players to circumvent the
testing regime."
The lawmakers faulted the NHL program for calling for "up to
two" tests rather than mandating a minimum number, for not having
an independent administrator, and for limiting testing to training
camp through the regular season.
"We have received the letter. We disagree with several
assertions made in the letter, and we will respond in due course,"
NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur said.
Other complaints in the letter include that tests won't occur on
game days and must be done on the day of a scheduled practice, that
there isn't a "clear and comprehensive" list of banned
substances, and that there can't be testing for designer steroids.
Davis and Waxman have held hearings with current or former
players and management and union officials from various sports, and
they proposed a bill that would govern drug-testing and punishment
for the four major U.S. professional leagues.
The measure would call for a two-year ban for a first positive
test and a lifetime ban for a second.
"Your efforts to develop your own policy appear to be
inadequate and to provide additional evidence of the need for our
legislation," Davis and Waxman wrote Wednesday.