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Attorney General Nominee Eric Holder NFL Past Comes Into Spotlight

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Jan/18/2009

ESPN filed a report this weekend that Attorney General nominee, Eric Holder, could come under fire due to his NFL past.

The NFL used Mr. Holder to act as an established voice during a period of embarrassing congressional hearings related to performance enhancement drugs.

From ESPN.com:

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.

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."

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."

The optimistic atmosphere of the sessions apparently deteriorated quickly. According to two participants in the meetings, Holder's group of league officials and union leaders was focused on eliminating public controversy and media scrutiny and wanted to conduct their own drug testing quietly and confidentially.

Holder's time working with the NFL is especially disconcerting for the online gambling sector, which has been stymied primarily a result of the NFL's opposition to Internet sports betting.

Holder this week also told Congress he intended to enforce regulations in place against the industry.

Holder's nomination is not a guarantee, however, and his involvement with the NFL could become a serious distraction.

ESPN.com points out:

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 (Roger) 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.

Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com         

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