House committee to look into Williamses' case

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to conduct a hearing next month on the case of two professional football players whose suspensions were blocked by a federal appeals court.

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is concerned that the legal issues raised in the case “could result in weaker performance-enhancing drugs policies for professional sports,” the committee said in a statement issued Thursday.

The NFL tried to suspend Minnesota Vikings Pat Williams and Kevin Williams four games each for violating the league’s anti-doping policy. But the players sued the NFL in state court, asking a judge to block the suspensions, arguing the NFL’s testing violated Minnesota workplace laws.

The case was moved to federal court, and the NFL Players Association filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of the Williamses and New Orleans Saints players who were also suspended. In May, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson dismissed the NFLPA’s lawsuit and several claims in the Williamses’ case – then sent two claims involving Minnesota workplace laws back to state court. The appeals court panel last month agreed with Magnuson’s decisions.

The decision troubled the NFL and professional sports leagues, which expressed concern about players being subjected to different standards depending on their state.

Extra points

Oft-injured New England running back Fred Taylor is sidelined again and could need surgery on his right ankle. He is expected to miss Sunday’s game at Denver. … Leon Clarke, a two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver with the Los Angeles Rams, has died of pancreatitis at 76. … Through the first four weeks of the season, NFL games are drawing their best average viewership since 1989 at 17.4 million.