WASHINGTON – President Bush called on Major League Baseball (search) on Wednesday to take "strong steps" to confront the use of steroids (search) and other illegal performance-enhancing substances by players.
Bush spoke up on the issue - which he also noted in his State of the Union address earlier this year - as players and league management worked toward an agreement on tougher testing for steroids. Drug use "diminishes the integrity of sports," Bush's spokesman said.
"The president believes it's important for Major League Baseball management and the player's union to act by taking strong steps to address the problem," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. "Professional baseball players are people our children look up to. Players who use drugs undermine the efforts of parents and coaches to send the right message to our children."
McClellan did not spell out what would constitute "strong steps" by the league. Bush, a former managing partner of the Texas Rangers (search), is not involved in negotiations between players and baseball management, limiting his role to public remarks through the spokesman.
But Bush has relied upon Roland Betts, another former partner in the Rangers, to communicate his beliefs to the league, McClellan said.
In May or June, Betts conveyed Bush's conviction that the league needs "a tough steroids testing policy," McClellan said.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig (search) repeatedly has called for more frequent testing and harsher penalties for steroid use, stepping up the intensity following reports of grand jury testimony in a steroid investigation that includes sluggers Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield.
Bush praised the efforts of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has threatened to propose federal legislation that would override the drug-testing provisions in baseball's collective bargaining agreement.
In his January State of the Union (search) address, Bush called for U.S. sports leagues to adopt tougher anti-doping policies and for athletes to set a better example for American youngsters.