President elect Barack Obama nominated long time Washington lawyer Eric Holder as his cabinet's Attorney General (AG). Holder's nomination prompted some critique of his time in the Clinton White House. However the countries anti-doping enforcement agencies also hold opinions about the AG-in waiting. They are not pleased. Maybe Holder will treat steroid offenders the way he treated Clinton-era sleazeball Marc Rich.
Seems Holder wanted all the information top steroid-enforcement government agencies could gather, but didn't want to reciprocate. Guess that's called 'diplomacy'...or 'stubborn self-interest''. Lester Munson writes a fascinating article at ESPN on the subject.
When the NFL grew tired of embarrassing disclosures and congressional hearings about performance-enhancing drugs and wanted to establish a voice in the federal government's investigations, league officials turned to Eric Holder, the man who is now President-elect Barack Obama's nominee for attorney general.
Holder quickly gathered senior executives from the other three leagues and their player unions and led them into a series of meetings in 2007 with top officials of, among others, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the FBI, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the agency that presides over the nation's "war on drugs." The sessions began with a measure of fanfare.
Holder was a natural choice to lead the effort. He served as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and then became a partner in Covington & Burling, a powerful Washington law firm that has long represented the NFL. For seven years, Holder helped the NFL through a number of difficulties, including an investigation of the dog-fighting charges against Michael Vick, the implementation of the Rooney Rule that requires owners to interview minority candidates for head coach vacancies, and the league's personal conduct crackdown.
Meetings began with all concerned hoping to develop a cooperative environment.
At the outset, hopes were high. After the first meeting in March of 2007, Scott Burns, the deputy director of the ONDCP and a participant in the sessions, said, "This is the first step in changing the way we look at the problem in the U.S. I hear more about human growth hormone and steroids and athletes than I do about crack cocaine. This is important to America."
Darryl Seibel, an official of the U.S. Olympic Committee, which also participated in the meetings, was equally hopeful. "You have, for the first time, a collaboration on an entirely new level on a national issue that requires a response such as this," he said.
But the efforts at cooperation ended badly when, led by Holder, the leagues and the unions refused to consider serious reforms in the way in which users of steroids were investigated and prosecuted and insisted on maintaining their own drug enforcement procedures under their respective collective bargaining agreements. The collaboration between law enforcement and sports organizations quietly fell apart.
"There was no substance to it," said one law enforcement official who participated in the meetings. "It was all for show."
Apparently some organizations, and their representatives, cannot play well with others:
"Holder and the professional leagues wanted us to share information with them," a top official of a law enforcement agency who participated in Holder's meetings told ESPN.com. "They wanted to know what players were involved. They wanted an end to leaks from our investigations. But when we asked for their information about players who used or where players bought their drugs, they didn't want to give us anything."
Might Holder's cooperating and stances with top Federal law enforcement agencies filter into the AG confirmation hearings? Interesting questions, and ESPN responds after the jump.
Now, Holder's role in the meetings and their outcome could become an issue in his confirmation hearing, which is scheduled to begin before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 15. Congressional interest in steroids issues has been intense in recent years, including the infamous hearing featuring Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa in March 2005, and last February's contentious session starring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee.
If the Senate confirms Holder as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, he will be responsible for federal prosecutions throughout the U.S. and will quickly face decisions concerning the government's investigation of possible perjury by Clemens during his appearance on Capitol Hill and the disposition of pending perjury charges against Barry Bonds. It is possible committee members will ask Holder about his stand on enforcing drug laws against players in light of his past representation of a professional league and its athletes. Holder is still being paid for his NFL work, with $2.5 million in deferred compensation and separation payments coming to him in 2009, according to a financial disclosure statement he filed with the Judiciary Committee in mid-December.
Neither Holder nor the Obama transition team responded to numerous calls and e-mails from ESPN.com.
2.5 million left form the NFL in deferred compensation. One, that a ton of dough; and two, wonder where Holder's sentiments lie?
US drug agencies including the USADA wanted a cooperative sharing environment as with the Olympics and WADA. Holder and his organized USA sports cronies wanted nothing to do with it. Now, Holder as possible AG will be key in determining where and when anti-steroid and anti-doping enforcement go....both of which lag in the US compared with Olympic efforts. Munson concludes:
Now that Holder has left Covington & Burling, the failed meetings raise another issue. As an attorney for the NFL and the leader of these sessions, Holder's duty on performance-enhancing drug issues was to work privately to protect the leagues, the unions and their interests. As attorney general of the U.S., his duty will be to work publicly to prosecute the players he once protected. The role reversal could be interesting.