Sanders says baseball should be tougher on steroid use

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(Host) Congressman Bernie Sanders is calling on Major League Baseball to adopt tougher penalties for players who are caught using steroids. Sanders is a member of the House committee that’s holding hearings on the issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) In his 15 years in the U.S. House, Sanders says he has never witnessed the media attention that surrounded Thursday’s hearing by the House Government Reform Committee on steroid use by Major League Baseball players.

The panel heard from several current players, including Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palemiro, several former players, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, and Donald Fehr, the head of the players’ union. The hearing was scheduled to investigate allegations made by Canseco in a new book that he witnessed a number of players injecting steroids.

Major League Baseball recently adopted a new steroid testing program that includes random testing and a series of penalties for players who fail the drug tests. A first offense is punishable by a $10,000 fine and a ten-day suspension. Sanders says this approach is not strong enough:

(Sanders) “Compared to the Olympics, compared to the NCAA for example, Major League Baseball has done a bad job in saying to its players, Look we don’t want you, you’re not going to use steroids and that’s it. You’re not going to play Major League Baseball if you’re using steroids.”

(Kinzel) Some members of Congress argue it’s a waste of time for the House to investigate this issue. Sanders disagrees:

(Sanders) “The issue here is you have baseball players who are role models, you have kids around this country who say, Well great baseball players are doing it, why shouldn’t I do it? Is that an issue Congress should look at, given the fact that Congress is already heavily involved in baseball? Yeah. I did it I an appropriate area.”

(Kinzel) Sanders says he is disappointed that the media doesn’t cover other important issues with this much intensity:

(Sanders) “The hearing was a media zoo. I counted over 20 television cameras. And yet time after time when we deal with issues like a disintegrating health care system or increased poverty in America there’s virtually no media there at all.”

(Kinzel) Two key players who have been accused of using steroids, Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, were not called before the committee because they are subjects in an ongoing federal investigation.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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