By Jeff Barker
May 18, 2005
House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis "is not pleased that the [players'] union hasn't been able to fulfill its pledge to secure more players" for tomorrow's hearing, Davis spokesman David Marin said yesterday.
The committee says it doesn't want to suggest that basketball has the same problems with steroids as baseball, but that it wants to investigate further and determine why the NBA doesn't have a stronger anti-steroids program.
The committee invited Dixon, the former Maryland star and Baltimore native, and several other NBA players not because they are suspected of using performance-boosting substances, but rather because they have anti-steroids messages to convey.
The committee - which earlier held hearings on steroid use in Major League Baseball and the NFL - says its objectives are to educate youths about the dangers of steroid use and to learn whether professional sports leagues' steroid testing and discipline procedures are working.
Dixon's name was proposed by the National Basketball Players Association.
Although Marin did not disclose the names of others invited, another official said Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill is among those the panel has considered. It's not certain if Hill has been formally invited and, if so, why he is not scheduled to appear.
Said Marin: "We first invited players who had made compelling public statements about the lack of steroid use in basketball and the need to tell young people that steroid use is harmful.
NBPA spokesman Dan Wasserman was not available to receive a call seeking comment.
Also scheduled to appear are NBA commissioner David Stern and Keith Jones, a Houston Rockets trainer.
After baseball's testing program was criticized for being too lax, commissioner Bud Selig last month proposed toughening penalties more than fivefold for a first offense and imposing a lifetime ban for a third violation.
Selig is scheduled to make a return visit to Capitol Hill today to testify before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chaired by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns. Baseball players union chief Donald Fehr is also scheduled to appear during two days of hearings, along with the commissioners of the NFL, NHL and Major League Soccer.
Fehr's testimony is likely to be a highlight. He is expected to be asked by the panel members whether his union could go along with Selig's new proposal under which first offenders would get 50-game suspensions, second offenders would get 100 games and third offenders would be banned permanently.
The NBA suspends players five games for an initial infraction. Only three players - Don MacLean, Matt Geiger, Soumaila Samake - are known to have tested positive.
While baseball and football players are believed to inject steroids to bulk up, basketball players may use the supplements to speedily recover from injuries.
"The committee is interested in hearing more about the claim that steroid use and basketball proficiency are incompatible," said a committee background memorandum. "The committee will also ask why - if the NBA does, in fact, not face a steroid problem - its testing policy is not stronger."
The leaders of the reform committee are working on a bill that may require that baseball and other professional sports impose a two-year suspension for the first violation and a lifetime ban for a second infraction.
Stearns has already introduced similar legislation.
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