But consider: The NBA still requires no player testing in the offseason, when some of the most serious doping occurs as part of conditioning regimens. (In baseball, Barry Bonds famously supersized himself between the 1998 and 1999 seasons.) The NHL announced 1,406 "clean" tests and no positives in its just-concluded season -- yet the league based its in-season testing on WADA's more limited "out of competition" standards, which excluded substances like amphetamines. The NFL just this year got around to putting amphetamines on its "banned" list of performance-enhancers.
And aspects of MLB's new drug policy still appall its critics, like deciding not to ban the endurance booster EPO after a random sample of 200 players.
"Give me a break; that's not a basis!" declares Wadler. "I don't care if nobody tested positive. If a substance gives an athlete an unfair advantage or is a risk to his health or violates the spirit of the sport, it should be banned."
It worked that way, according to MLB labor-relations chief Rob Manfred, because while officials doubted baseball has an EPO problem, they wanted to satisfy themselves by testing the 200 players for it. There were no positives.
The dynamic is clear, in the view of John Hoberman, whose book "Testosterone Dreams" examines the history and hypocrisy of sports doping. While players and owners fight furiously over economic issues, they're often cozily on the same side when it comes to drug issues. "They're not conspiracies; they're arrangements," says Hoberman, a University of Texas professor. Both parties have much at stake economically, "and the show must go on. The idea of commercial operations which sell athletic performance to police their own athletes is an obvious conflict of interest."
The leagues take issue with that, of course. "That's a specious argument," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says of the conflict-of-interest contention. "It's very much in our economic interest to keep doping out of our game and protect its integrity." Aiello notes the league has done its drug-testing at a WADA-certified lab -- the UCLA facility -- and that it has aggressively disciplined violators. Since 1989, Aiello points out, the NFL has suspended 144 players for substance-abuse violations, including 54 for steroids.
Nonetheless, Hoberman and plenty of other students of the issue wish Congress had passed some version of sports-doping legislation, which would have removed the leagues' autonomy on these matters. As a useful precedent, they point to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), formed in 2000 because the U.S. Olympic Committee had the same problem as the major leagues. It couldn't reconcile trying to maximize American gold medals while simultaneously trying to keep American athletes clean, so the police function was turned over to USADA, which has done its job aggressively. The Colorado Springs-based agency teamed with federal agents to investigate and bust BALCO, whose best customers reportedly included track-and-field athletes such as Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery.