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McCain Introduces Amateur Sports Integrity Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC

S. 1002. A bill to direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology to establish a program to support research and training in methods of detecting the use of performance-enhancing drugs by athletes, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. MCCAIN. Mr. President, today, I am joined by my colleagues Senators BROWNBACK, EDWARDS and GRAHAM in introducing the Amateur Sports Integrity Act of 2003. This legislation would make it illegal to gamble on Olympic, college, or high school sports, and it would authorize appropriations for the National Institute of Standards and Technology to fund research into methods of detection and prevention of the use athletic performance-enhancing drugs. The bill is similar to legislation that has been reported twice in previous Congresses.

The legislation is designed to respond to a number of troubling issues plaguing amateur athletics, including a gambling epidemic among high school and college students, and a significant increase among our youth in the use of performance-enhancing drugs and supplements. This bill is essential to ensuring the integrity and legitimacy of amateur athletics—an important institution in the social fabric of this country.

This bill would codify a recommendation made by the congressionally-created National Gambling Impact Study Commission, NGISC, to ban betting on collegiate and amateur athletic events. In the summary of its comprehensive report to Congress dated June 1999, the NGISC noted growing concern regarding increasing levels of sports wagering by high school and college students. The NGISC cites a 1996 study sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which found that of the over 200 student athletes surveyed in Division I basketball and football programs, more than one in four admitted to betting on college sports while in school.

More recently, a study conducted by the Psychology Department of Central Connecticut State University contends that the problem of gambling among college students has been relatively overlooked when studying student risk-taking behavior. The study links legal and illegal gambling by indicating that, "it is reasonable to expect that the growth of legalized gambling over the past decade would result in an increase in student gambling and gambling problems, including students who gamble at a pathological level." It is important to understand that gambling is not a problem that occurs in a vacuum. The Connecticut study found that one out of nine students at four Connecticut universities suffered from a gambling problem that was "significantly connected" to substance and dietary problems, such as marijuana use, cigarette smoking, and binge eating and drinking.

Just as the use of performance-enhancing drugs threatens the integrity of amateur sports, so does gambling, as it invites public speculation as to their legitimacy and transforms student athletes into merely objects to be bet upon. Betting can also provide unnecessary temptation to amateur athletes to agree to point-shaving and other outcome-fixing schemes at the expense of their teammates, their fans, and their futures. Many of the same pressures that lead college players to cheat also push these young people to use performance-enhancing drugs. The combination of stresses placed on student athletes to perform athletically, handle newly-found notoriety, and pursue professional athletic careers drive many to seek an edge through the use of such substances.

Although the Amateur Sports Integrity Act would ban legal gambling on amateur athletics, it may also reduce a substantial amount of illegal gambling. The relationship between legal and illegal gambling was addressed by the NGISC, which observed that "legal sports wagering—especially the publication in the media of Las Vegas and offshore-generated point spreads fuels a much larger amount of illegal sports wagering."

In 1992, Congress recognized the Federal interest in protecting amateur sports from the harmful effects of gambling, and prohibited state-sanctioned sports betting in the overwhelming majority of states. Although Congress "grandfathered" Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware, only Nevada has chosen to permit legal gambling on amateur sports. Recently, however, the gaming industry has lobbied aggressively in an effort to convince the Delaware State legislature to exploit the loophole by legalizing gambling on amateur and professional sports.

Congress must act quickly to close the loophole that currently allows just a handful of States to serve as national clearinghouses for betting on our youth. By allowing betting in any state, we send a confusing message to our youth as to whether gambling on amateur athletics is, in fact, legal or illegal. While I do not pretend that this bill solves all problems associated with gambling and the use of performance-enhancing drugs, I do believe that it will send a clear message that gambling on amateur athletics and the use of these substances is dangerous and wrong.

I urge my colleagues to respond to the pleas of prominent college presidents and coaches, and join in supporting this important measure.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of this bill be printed in the RECORD.

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