US sports leagues to join forces in doping fight: report

US Olympic
Committee officials and leaders of the four most important

US professional
sport leagues are talking to federal agencies about cooperating in anti-doping
methods, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The
newspaper reported that while the size or manner of information sharing remains
in the formative stages, trading information between sports and federal
agencies might provide leads to law-enforcement officials and catch more dope
cheats.

“You
have, for the first time, collaboration on an entirely new level,” US
Olympic Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel told the newspaper.

“This
is a national issue that requires a response such as this. The first two
meetings have been very productive and they reflect the seriousness of this
issue.”

Concern
over steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing banned
substances has risen in recent years with the BALCO scandal tainting US
athletics and baseball and a new scandal uncovering internet drug purchasers.

A March
meeting at the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters was attended by
Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, and officials from
the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major
League Baseball, the Post reported, citing unnamed participants.

US Justice
Department and US Customs officials, high school and collegiate sports
governing bodies and representatives from the players unions of the four major
sports leagues also attended the gathering, the newspaper reported.

“We
had representatives at the highest levels and key entities at the table to deal
with this,” Scott Burns, the White House drug control office deputy
director for state and local affairs, told the newspaper.

“I
give the leagues great credit for not only initiating this discussion but also
reaching out to the right people and agreeing to sit down and have really frank
and candid conversations.”

Burns said
the participants have agreed to meet again, but have not set a date for their
next gathering.

“I
hear more about HGH and steroids and athletes than I do about crack
cocaine,” Burns told the Post.

“This
is the first step in changing the way we look at this problem in the

United States.”

US
lawmakers have threatened to
impose World Anti-Doping Agency-styled anti-doping rules upon US sports leagues
unless they better policed their sports, but have never made good their threat
even though the self-policing by the leagues has met with mixed results.

A prime
example is playing out daily in baseball, where Barry Bonds is only 10 home
runs shy of matching Hank Aaron for the all-time US homer mark but does so
under a cloud of steroid accusations.

While
Bonds has denied knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs, his trainer was
among five men convicted in the BALCO doping scandal.

There was
also no steroid testing in the major leagues during much of Bonds career,
including 2001 when Bonds set a one-season record with 73 homers.

In addition,
former New York
Mets clubhouse attendant Kirk Radomski has said he provided steroids and other
performance-enhancing drugs to dozens of major league players.

In a plea
deal, he agreed to cooperate with a commission looking into doping in baseball
that is being led by former US Senator George Mitchell.

That panel
was formed by Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig in the wake of a
book detailing Bonds’ drug history that was published last year – a book that
has drawn no lawsuits attacking its accuracy.