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NBA Commissioner Calls for Tougher Steroid Sanctions

National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and Players' Union Head Billy Hunter have promised tougher sanctions for steroid use. However, the U.S. Congress still might pass legislation that would impose penalties similar to those mandated by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

For the second day in a row, NBA Commissioner David Stern was on Capitol Hill, testifying before lawmakers who want tougher sanctions against steroid use.

Thursday Stern spoke to the House Government Reform Committee, whose chairman, Virginia Republican Tom Davis, said, while steroid use in basketball is not as bad as other sports, tougher penalties are needed for cheaters.

"Certainly the NBA is not suffering under the same cloud of steroid use suspicion that has been hovering over other sports," said Tom Davis. "But we are still left with some questions given the fact that NBA policies have some Shaq-sized holes in them. How do we know there is no steroid problem if NBA testing policies are not that strong?"

Current NBA policy imposes a five game ban for the first positive test, 10 games for the second and 25 games for the third. However, only rookie players are tested all season long. Stern told the committee that he plans to increase the penalties in a new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union.

"And we have proposed random tests for all players each season, four of them," said David Stern. "One random test for each player for all season. And penalties, first penalty 10 games suspension, 25 for the second and dismissal for the third."

NBA players' union head Billy Hunter said that steroid use is counterproductive for NBA players because it hurts something they value, their marketability.

"There is little doubt that the use of such substances will create a perception in the minds of our consumers that a player has an unfair advantage," said Billy Hunter. "We cannot tolerate even the perception that the integrity of our contest is at issue."

Hunter added that he believed labor negotiations were the best way to fight steroids, not legislation. He asked the committee to allow time for the collective bargaining agreement to pass, and not to impose laws that would ban a player for a second positive test.

Meanwhile in another hearing room, National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that legislation is not needed to solve steroid use in the NFL.

Similar hearings involving the Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and National ice Hockey League were held Wednesday. The hearings are part of congressional efforts to stop steroid use in major professional sports. Two separate pieces of legislation have been drafted that would impose a two-year ban for a first positive test and a lifetime ban for a second positive in all U.S. based sports.