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Your Government at Work: Congress Grandstands on NFL Drug Testing

After a year in which virtually everybody in Washington agreed that cutting spending was vital, you might have thought the Congress would have restrained its own involvement in tangential issues that having nothing to do with the business of government. If so, you thought wrong. As this item in a New York Times NFL roundup column from earlier this week notes, the House Committee on Government Oversight’s intervention in the question of testing for the use of human growth hormone illustrates that a bipartisan dedication to pointless and shameless grandstanding is undiminished.

As The Hill reported last month, chair Rep. Darrel Issa and the ranking minority member, Rep. Elijah Cummings had demanded that leaders of the league and the players union appear to explain why they had not agreed to a procedure for drug testing. Since the two parties are still locked in a stalemate over that issue, the Republican chair and his Democrat counterpart are determined to stick their noses in the dispute. But neither has put forward an explanation as to why NFL drug testing is a federal issue and worthy of the time and expense that a Congressional hearing on the matter would entail.

You would think with the Solyndra affair and countless other government scandals, Issa would have his plate full without an excursion into the uncharted waters of the impact of human growth hormone on professional sports. Nor is there any conceivable legislation that might spring from such a matter. But that would require you to ignore the irresistible temptation that the extra publicity that a sports-related story would bestow on those taking part in a sports-related Congressional proceeding.

Issa and Cummings want in on the NFL dispute simply because it allows them to pose as guardians of the integrity of a great American game. A hearing on this issue, like previous ones devoted to the use of steroids in baseball, gives Congress a platform to bully both the NFL and the players into doing something that they are clearly prepared to do on their own.

It may be that this is a righteous cause and that HGH use requires testing to preserve fair play. But even if the players hold up drug testing, either because they don’t trust the procedure or because they resent the loss of privacy rights, and HGH use is theoretically allowed to continue, what business is that of Congress?

This is not a federal issue and there is no legal excuse for government intervention. All this represents is a chance for Issa, Cummings and their colleagues on the committee to burnish their images and to hobnob with sports figures while pretending to be acting in the best interests of a game that Americans love to watch and gamble on.

The next time a member of either party goes on about the need for Congress to crack down on out of control spending and a big government mentality, remind them about the House’s intervention in NFL drug testing. If Congress wants to save our money, and it should, it ought to start by cutting down on hearings whose only purpose is to allow members to grandstand on issues that are none of their business.



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