Over the past month, Congress has been more involved in professional sports than ever. Issues over performance-enhancing drugs, lying and cheating have been brought to Capitol Hill in two separate congressional hearings, with a possible third set for the NFL's "Spygate" scandal.
A common thread in these two cases: They were nothing more than publicity stunts that took valuable time away from our elected officials. Congressmen have more pressing issues to be concerned with - especially during a time of war. Instead, they've accomplished nothing except further damaging the integrity of professional sports in America.
The two congressional hearings were both regarding performance-enhancing drugs, but dealt with two separate issues. Roger Clemens, the best pitcher of this era, brought his case to clear himself of charges of using performance-enhancing drugs and the public's perception that he was a cheater. Weeks later, another hearing was held, this time featuring union representatives and commissioners from the MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL.
Clemens spent the week before the hearings lobbying his case to officials that his character was destroyed in the Mitchell Report due to untrue statements by his former trainer Brian McNamee. The committee conducting the hearing, chaired by California Rep. Henry Waxman, stated a disclaimer before the hearings that it was not the intention of Congress to hold public hearings but that it was insisted upon by Clemens and his legal team.
The results of the five-hour session ended with devastating blows to the images of both Clemens and McNamee. In trying to restore his image, Clemens may have dug a hole so deep that it could lead to a charge of perjury, similar to the fate of former Olympic sprinter Marion Jones, who began a six-month prison sentence last week for lying to the feds.
The hearings were not only damaging for Clemens but the sport itself. Considering the new home-run king, Barry Bonds, and the top pitcher of this era have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, how much more can fans withstand before they stop coming to the ballpark?
In 2005, hearings followed the BALCO drug-laboratory scandal as a message to professional sports to clean up their act. These hearings resulted in professional sports strengthening the screening and punishment for athletes who use these drugs. But Texas Rep. Joe Barton was still dissatisfied, saying, "Let's get it right this time, so we're not back here again in a few years."
I echo the sentiment of outraged NBA Commissioner David Stern as he lashed back at the congressman, saying "We did get it right the first time. Since 2005 we have implemented independent random World Anti-Doping Agency-approved drug testing, with long lists of prohibited substances."
A new baseball season is right around the corner, the NFL is coming off the most watched Super Bowl in history, and the NHL and NBA are wrapping up their regular seasons with what promises to be an exciting playoffs ahead. It should be a time to celebrate the games, but instead each day the reputation of professional sports is being dragged through the mud.