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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Give leagues a chance to clean up on their own

The Spokesman-Review

The following editorial ran in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel on Wednesday:

What’s John McCain in such a rush about? Is he on steroids or something?

OK, that’s unfair. But isn’t McCain, the U.S. senator from Arizona, also being unfair by promoting legislation to force a uniform steroid policy on the four major professional sports before giving them a chance to address the problem on their own?

Uniformity may not be appropriate, for one thing. As National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has pointed out, it could lead to a lowest-common-denominator standard that would not serve anyone’s best interests.

McCain’s counterparts in the House have gotten into the act with legislation of their own. But whether you call it the Clean Sports Act, as McCain’s Senate legislation does, or the Drug Free Sports Act, as one House version does, all the bills have this in common: They’re premature.

Not that McCain and the other sponsors are wrong to be concerned. Steroid use among professional athletes is cheating and should not be tolerated. It’s also a threat to the health of impressionable young people who may feel they have to use steroids to compete for a professional sports career.

Still, it’s been only a few months since the steroid issue exploded into the limelight, and sports commissioners say they are working with their players’ unions to address it. Shouldn’t they be given the chance to do so before Congress muscles its way into the picture?

McCain and his colleagues should return their attention to the federal deficit, Social Security’s future and the other major problems facing the nation. If America’s sporting professionals ultimately prove unable to eliminate steroid use on their own, it will be time enough for Congress to intervene.

Legislation is premature; the sports should be given a chance to address the problem on their own.

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