- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2003

Federal lawmakers want to restrict sales of certain prohormones, dubbed the safe alternative to steroids, by classifying them as controlled substances.

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, and Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, last week introduced a bill that would limit the sales of steroid precursors, hormones that break down in the body into testosterone.

Among the prohormones targeted was andro, or androstenedione, a legal steroid that gained notoriety after professional baseball player Mark McGuire admitted using it in 1998.

A new “designer” steroid called THG, or tetrahydrogestrinone, also would be banned for over-the-counter sales, forcing customers to have a doctor’s prescription to buy the drug that breaks down into an anabolic steroid and builds muscle mass.

The Food and Drug Administration already has taken action against the recently discovered steroid. The agency said Tuesday that THG is not a dietary supplement but an illegal drug.

The goal of the legislation is to prevent young athletes from overdosing on prohormones, which have been linked to stunted growth, high blood pressure and changes in sexual organs, Mr. Biden said in his introductory statement for the bill.

“To be honest, I would be less concerned about what professional athletes are doing to their bodies if their actions did not have such a profound effect on kids,” he said.

Mr. Hatch said he has petitioned the FDA for two years to take action on andro with no response.

“I’ve been extremely frustrated that these dangerous products are sold freely — especially to our teens — while our regulators do nothing,” he said.

One key part of the Anabolic Steroids Act of 2003 that Biden staffers think will push the bill through quickly is the exemption of DHEA, or dehydroepiandosterone, a hormone produced naturally in the adrenal glands.

A similar bill in the House of Representatives, which limited DHEA sales, was reintroduced in January but has failed to gain as much support from the supplement industry.

The Senate bill offers more protections to the supplement industry while cracking down on steroids masquerading as dietary supplements, said David Seckman, executive director and chief executive officer of the National Nutritional Foods Association, a Newport, Calif., trade group.

Critics argue that the bill bans legal products without providing real evidence that compounds in the supplements are related to health or dependency risks.

Rick Collins, a general counsel for a supplement lobbying group, called the bill excessive, noting that it gives greater power to the Drug Enforcement Administration to classify supplements as steroids.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission also would be required to review its guidelines and produce stricter sentences for steroid traffickers and users.

“Athletes would face harsh jail time for a legal supplement that does not have the potential for dependency or abuse like heroine, cocaine or LSD does,” said Mr. Collins of the United Supplement Freedom Association Inc.

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