DENVER Major League Baseball and the NFL agreed to join the U.S. Olympic Committee to fund anti-doping research, contributing $3 million each to create the most extensive drug-fighting partnership between America's biggest pro leagues and its Olympic federation.
The USOC is also giving $3 million and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is giving $1 million to the new Partnership for Clean Competition, a collaborative that will use the initial $10 million to fund grants for research to combat performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
"Major League Baseball's support of this important new effort by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency continues our commitment to fight the use of performance-enhancing substances among our athletes," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said Thursday in a statement obtained by The Associated Press.
Baseball and the NFL have long distanced themselves from anti-doping programs endorsed by the USOC and USADA.
The idea was spearheaded by the USOC, which has pledged to do more in the anti-doping fight, and has become more vocal on the issue in the last two years, which have included a barrage of steroid stories ranging from track to cycling to baseball.
"It is vital that the major sport organizations in America work together to combat a problem that, left unchecked, has the potential to destroy the value and integrity of sport," USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth said.
Up to now, the research part of the anti-doping fight has been underfunded. Scientists and pharmacists have been able to come up with new, undetectable steroids more quickly than agencies like USADA have come up with tests to fight them.
The initial $10 million, to be spent over the next four years the USOC expects the amount and the time commitment to increase if the program is a success will go to researchers who have ideas about finding and detecting designer substances and also toward further development of a better and cheaper test to detect human growth hormone.
Baseball recently gave scientist Don Catlin $500,000 to find an effective urine test for HGH and Catlin has said he's making progress. But it didn't change his overall view on the fight against doping in sports.
"But let's say we get that contained tomorrow," Catlin said last month. "The next day, there's going to be another one."
The NBA, NHL and PGA are also participating in the research collaborative, and the USOC is seeking more funding from sports and non-sports corporations.
The Partnership for Clean Competition will have a board of governors, with one member from each of the founding partners, and that board will appoint a scientific research advisory board. The scientific board will review grant requests and track results of research projects.
"Our support of the Partnership for Clean Competition is consistent with our longstanding commitment to invest in research that advances the goal of eliminating doping in sport," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
Both baseball and the NFL have also been active in other anti-doping programs. In October, the NFL gave $1.2 million to the Atlas and Athena program, which encourages high school students to look to exercise and healthy eating instead of steroids and HGH. Baseball has alliances with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Taylor Hooton Foundation.
One of the key components of the Mitchell Report was the recommendation that baseball employ an independent anti-doping corporation to run its steroids program. While baseball's contribution to this new collaborative falls short of that, it is a substantial alliance with the USOC and USADA, which runs the kind of program the Mitchell Report endorses.
"USADA welcomes and greatly appreciates the shared commitment of the U.S. Olympic Committee, National Football League and Major League Baseball, and that of others who join us in this important endeavor," said Travis Tygart, the CEO of USADA.