A California congressman has joined the cause against Michael Vick, firing off a letter Friday that urged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to ``act swiftly and forcefully'' if the Atlanta Falcons quarterback was involved in dog fighting on his former property.
U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) pointed out that he's a senior member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which two years ago held highly publicized hearings on the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports.
Lantos raised the prospect of government intervention if the NFL fails to discipline Vick.
``I am outraged that one of the National Football League's superstars is affiliated with such a heinous enterprise,'' Lantos wrote.
Last month, police raided a Virginia home owned by Vick and allegedly found evidence of a major dog-fighting operation, including dozens off malnourished and injured dogs. The quarterback has denied any wrongdoing, and no criminal charges have been filed against him.
Vick has since sold the home.
``The level of cruelty involved in exploiting animals to the point that 60 malnourished and injured dogs were removed from Mr. Vick's property is mind boggling,'' Lantos said. ``I will view anything less than the strongest repudiation of Mr. Vick's involvement as tacit support for this atrocious activity.''
The NFL has said repeatedly it is investigating the case to determine if Vick violated the commissioner's tougher standards for players who run afoul of the law. Reached Friday, Falcons spokesman Reggie Roberts reiterated the team's policy of not commenting until the investigation is completed.
Calling himself a longtime advocate of animal welfare, Lantos joined two prominent animals rights groups that have called on Goodell to suspend or ban any players involved in dog fighting.
``As evidence of Mr. Vick's involvement mounts, I implore you to act swiftly and forcefully,'' the congressman wrote. ``Your strong rebuke of dog fighting - and those who promote it - will send the message that this all-too-prevalent practice has no place in a civilized society.''
In a not-so-subtle threat of possible congressional action, Lantos reminded the commissioner of his committee's efforts to weed out those who use performance-enhancing drugs.
``I also suggest you educate your players on the illegality and cruelty of dog fighting to prevent this from happening again,'' Lantos wrote. ``It is my hope that the issue of animal fighting will not require us to further investigate the behavior of your athletes.''
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