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Senate Hearing on Steroids Focuses on Performance-EnhancingSupplements


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Senate Hearing on Steroids Focuses on Performance-Enhancing Supplements

WASHINGTON--A Senate committee met June 18 to discuss athletes, the use of steroids and performance-enhancing supplements a few weeks after Sports Illustrated quoted former Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti as having been on steroids when he won Major League Baseball's (MLB) prestigious award.

In a subcommittee hearing entitled, "Steroid Use in Professional Baseball and Anti-Doping Issue in Amateur Sport," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Foreign Commerce and Tourism, set the tone of the meeting by announcing, "what was once a 'field of dreams' may deteriorate into a quagmire of controlled substances like muscle-building steroids and human growth hormone."

Donald Fehr, executive director of the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), reported his organization does not condone the use by players of unlawful substances such as steroids, or the unlawful use of legal substances such as DHEA and androstenedione (andro). "As we have suggested in Steroids and Nutrition Supplements [a brochure distributed to players regarding MLBPA policy], it may well be time for the federal government to revisit whether such products should also be covered by Schedule III [listing steroid drugs]," Fehr said.

In a statement by Robert Manfred, Jr., executive vice president of labor and human resources for MLB, baseball Commissioner Allan Selig began an initiative two years ago to address problems with steroids and nutritional supplements. Team physicians reported that since the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), nutritional products such as andro could be marketed without the restrictions imposed by the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990. Manfred cited a 2000 study (JAMA, 283, 6:779-82) commissioned by MLBPA and conducted at Harvard in which andro, at sufficient quantities, elevated testosterone levels in the body "in the same manner as an anabolic steroid."

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) submitted comments to the subcommittee. "CRN shares the committee's concerns over [the illegal use of steroids]," wrote John Cardellina, Ph.D., vice president of botanical science and regulatory affairs. "CRN does recognize that there are two tangible concerns about legal dietary supplements containing steroid hormone precursors: 1) the potential impact of steroid hormone precursors on young athletes still in the process of sexual maturation; and 2) the possibility that the use of such products might result in positive tests for substances banned by some athletic governing bodies." CRN is currently developing guidelines for sport supplement usage by athletes of all ages.

For more on the testimony presented at this meeting, visit http://commerce.senate.gov/hearings0202.htm.

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