Congressional Investigations of Sports Scandals

As if Congress didn’t have enough work to do in handing out tax rebates to people who don’t pay taxes, building bridges to nowhere, censoring the perverts within its ranks, and the like, our esteemed legislators have been devoting an inordinate amount of time lately investigating the internal operation of professional sports leagues.

Henry Waxman, for one, wishes he hadn’t.

Roger Clemens Congress Steroids Hearings Photo A day after a dramatic, nationally televised hearing that pitted Roger Clemens against his former personal trainer and Democrats against Republicans, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Thursday that he regretted holding the hearing in the first place.

The chairman, Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, said the four-hour hearing unnecessarily embarrassed Clemens, who he thought did not tell the truth, as well as the trainer, Brian McNamee, who he thought was unfairly attacked by committee Republicans.

“I think Clemens and McNamee both came out quite sullied, and I didn’t think it was a hearing that needed to be held in order to get the facts out about the Mitchell report,” Waxman said.

No kidding. Not to mention that it made Congress look like buffoons.

Interestingly, presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain got the ball rolling on this over three years ago, threating to pass laws requiring steroids testing if baseball didn’t clean up its act. I’m not any more sold on the wisdom on governmental interference on this issue now than I was then; if anything, watching them make a hash of this has strengthened my resolve on the matter.

Meanwhile,Arlen Specter is making a spectacle of himself over Spygate — with the enthusiastic support of his Democratic counterpart, Pat Leahy.

Arlen Specter Spygate Photo A day after meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in Washington D.C., Sen. Arlen Specter said he continues to be troubled by a number of issues surrounding the league’s handling of Spygate and will continue his investigation.

Specter (R-Pa.) told that Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) offered support on Thursday for his inquiry into the New England Patriots’ questionable videotaping practices, saying Leahy is “prepared to have the committee pay for people who travel and investigate.” Leahy sat in on a part of Wednesday’s session with Goodell and league counsel, Specter said.

Sen. Arlen Specter, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls Roger Goodell’s reasoning for the destroying of the Spygate evidence “absurd.”

“I’m determined to go forward,” said Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee. “You have answers and positions where [Goodell] is saying that with the destruction of tapes that, ‘We did the right thing. We’re absolutely sure.’ “Well, that is absurd . . . Goodell says things that don’t make sense.”

He ain’t the only one.

I actually agree with Specter that Goodell’s decision to destroy the tapes is suspicious and think the Patriots cheating scandal is more severe than the League has made it out to be. But it’s not Congress’ business.

Further, the fact that Specter’s interest is sparked by his Philadelphia Eagles’ loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl presents a greater conflict of interest than Goodell’s. It simply looks inappropriate for Specter to use the power of his office in this manner.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Sports, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I’m all for Congress getting out of the sports business. They can start by repealing Major League Baseball’s anti-trust exemption.

  2. Triumph says:

    our esteemed legislators have been devoting an inordinate amount of time lately investigating the internal operation of professional sports leagues.

    Henry Waxman, for one, wishes he hadn’t.

    This is not quite accurate. Waxman is not saying the committee shouldn’t be investigating the steroid issue. He is saying that he wished that Clemens had not insisted on a public hearing.

    The only reason they had a hearing was because Clemens wanted one. The investigatory process involves more than hearings.

  3. DavidL says:

    I trust Henry Waxman as far as I can throw him, and I got s sore shoulder. I was hoping Roger Clemens would throw some hard inside fastball towards Hank’s adam’s apple and tell him to back off.

  4. John Burgess says:

    What DC Loser said.

    As long as taxpayers subsidize professional sports on a national level, as long as Congress exempts those sports from certain laws, then professional sports are part of the business of Congress.

    Congress has another interest in youth athletics, too, of course.

    Given the psychological space that sports hold in most American’s minds, it’s far easier to declare them to be a blanket, no-enhancement drugs zone categorically, rather than seek to regulate them one sport at a time, one level at a time.

  5. DL says:

    One thing is certain those clowns in congress don’t need steroids to puff up their already too-fat heads.

    Since they like sports so much, perhaps they understand this message from the American people…Strike three! Yer out!