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Pro Wrestling Snubs Congress

Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Roger Clemens committed perjury when he testified before Congress earlier this month (text of the committee's letter here). This comes a day after the New York Daily News reported that Clemens may have previously joked about seeing his wife and Jose Canseco's ex-wife comparing their breast implants at a 1998 party at Canseco's house that Clemens, under oath, denied having attended.

Not to be outdone, a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today summoned the commissioners and union chiefs of the four major North American pro sprots leagues to testify. The subcommittee threatened to resurrect the failed Drug Free Sports Act, which would have effectively federalized the leagues' drug-testing programs. Aside from the commissioners' admission (again) that they would really rather not use blood tests to combat the proliferation of human-growth hormone in pro sports, it quickly became clear that there's no good reason for such a massive intervention on the part of Congress. So the hearing deteriorated into lawmakers haranging about personal topics of interest (Ed Whitfield of Kentucky bemoaned the use of steroids in horse racing; Vito Fossella of New York, on behalf of Jets fans everywhere, asked Roger Goodell for an update on the Patriots' videotape scandal).

But it wasn't supposed to be just the four major leagues represented at the hearing. Subcommittee chairman Bobby Rush of Illinois revealed that he had also invited Vince McMahon, chairman of the board of directors of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), but that McMahon had declined to attend. Said Rush:

I am extremely and exceptionally disappointed with [McMahon's] decision not to appear at this hearing. ... While I recognize that professional wrestling is not a quote, sport, unquote, it still requires significant athletic talent and is widely watched by our young people. I want to to assure Mr. McMahon that we fully intend to address the issue of steroid use in professional wrestling. 

Rush also praised the four commissioners for attending and noted the contrast: "With respect to the WWE and your sports, it seems like the cream is really rising to the top here and the rest is falling to the bottom." (Gee, you think?) Now, since anabolic steroids are a Schedule III controlled substance and hence cannot be obtained without a doctor's prescription, presumably no new legislation is required if the federal government decides it wants to crack down. That aside, though, what exactly is the problem with pro wrestlers using steroids? Unlike other leagues, the WWE receives no special antitrust treatment from Congress and is transparently fake anyway, so other than being illegal and dangerous I can't tell what's supposed to be wrong with it. Kudos to Vince McMahon for deciding he had more important things to do today.

--Josh Patashnik