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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 1780

Location: Washington, DC


By Mr. BIDEN (for himself, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Grassley, and Mr. Harkin):

S. 1780. A bill to amend the Controlled Substances Act to clarify the definition of anabolic steroids and to provide for research and education activities relating to steroids and steroid precursors; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise tonight to introduce, along with my good friend from Utah, Senator Hatch, the distinguished Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the "Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2003." Over the last several weeks, we have read front-page articles on the dangerous mix of sports and steroids, including a new "designer" steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, known as "THG." Several premier athletes have allegedly tested positive for THG, and there is a Federal grand jury investigation into the alleged manufacture and distribution of this new substance. Our bill would make THG, and several other similar substances, subject to the Controlled Substances Act. Thus, these products would no longer be available over the counter. Absent a prescription from your doctor, you will not be able to buy them legally.

First, a bit of background on how we got here. Thirteen years ago I held a number of hearings on the dangers associated with steroid use and introduced legislation to make steroids Schedule III substances. After my bill became law, a number of steroid users continued to buy and use steroids only now they were buying them through a developing illicit market. Others relied on new products being developed or rediscovered by scientists, products which may not violate the letter of the law, but certainly violate the spirit of the law.

These substances, called steroid precursors or pro-steroids, are one step removed from the substances scheduled in the law: when ingested, they metabolize into testosterone or other illicit steroids. These are products which the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the group in charge of testing Olympic athletes for performance enhancing drugs, has called "the functional equivalent of steroids."

In writing about the lack of testing for steroid precursor use in professional baseball, Barry Rozner of the Chicago Daily Herald described the close relationship between steroids and steroid precursors. He wrote:

There's still no testing for andro (androstenedione) because technically it's not a steroid. It's a steroid precursor. Technically a cake mix isn't a cake but as soon as you pour it in a bowl and stick it in the oven, it's a cake. You put andro in the body, mix it with the body's chemicals and let it bake, and it turns into a powerful steroid. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, baseball calls it a sparrow.

The most well known of the steroid precursors is androstenedione often called "andro." Most recently Hiram Cruz, a 2001 national judo champion, was suspended from competition for two years after testing positive for andro. And it is widely thought that some East German Olympic athletes used it in the 1970s and 1980s to improve their performance. But perhaps the substance gained the most notoriety when professional baseball player Mark McGuire admitted that he used it when he broke Roger Maris's single season record for home runs. After McGuire revealed that he had taken andro, sales of the product quadrupled.

Andro increases both testosterone and estrogen levels in the body. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association "orally administered adro stenedione increases serum testosterone and estrogen levels in healthy men, particularly at higher doses." The study further notes that "long-term administration could be hazardous, particularly in women or children." Another study showed that even a single 100 milligram dose of andro can yield unhealthy levels of testosterone in women and can increase estrogen levels by 80 percent. Andro has also been associated with a decrease in HDL the "good" cholesterol and elevated levels of estradiol which may increase women's risk of breast cancer.

As I will discuss in greater detail later, in addition to the grave health effects associated with using andro and other steroid precursors, the physical effects can also be quite serious: women can develop masculine sex characteristics including changing of the sexual organs; men can develop feminine sex characteristics including breast development; and adolescent users can stunt their growth.

The International Olympic Committee, the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletics Association have banned andro and other steroid supplements. Other sports, particularly baseball, have been criticized for refusing to agree to test players for steroid precursors. I should note that Major League Baseball has endorsed the legislation I am introducing today. And at a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee last year, Donald Fehr, the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, said that "it may well be time for the Federal Government to revisit whether steroid precursors should also be covered by Schedule III." I agree with him. Interestingly enough, so do the 79 percent of major league baseball players and nearly 86 percent of baseball fans who, according to surveys conducted by USA Today last year, support testing for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

The USA Today survey also revealed that 80 percent of fans believe that steroid use is behind some of the major league records that have been broken recently. It is understandable, therefore, that some players may support testing to preserve the integrity of their records. As Yankees' shortstop Derek Jeter has been quoted as saying:

I don't have a problem with getting tested because I have nothing to hide. Steroids are a big issue. If anything like a home run or any injury happens, people say it's steroids. That's not fair.

In my view, it is time for Congress to act so that we can put an end to the charade that androstenedione and similar products are any different from the anabolic steroids that are controlled under current law.

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. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that nearly three-quarters of kids say that they look up to and want to emulate professional athletes. Sadly, more than half of those kids believe that their sports heroes use steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to win. That may be why adolescent anabolic steroid use is at its highest level in the past decade, with 1 million teens having used them.

As Dr. Bernard Greisemer, a pediatrician and sports medicine specialist, testified before the Senate last year, many of these products are marketed to kids who want to be like their favorite sports hero. Dr. Greisemer said:

[P]rofessional athletes are major role models for our young athletes; in the clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the food they eat, and the drugs and dietary supplements they take. The millions of dollars that are spent by major corporations in linking their products to a particular athlete, team, or sporting event, counter any argument that professional athletes are not affecting the lifestyles of our young athletes. Use of and media exposure of the use of, anabolic steroids in professional athletes also directly affects the interest in, the perception of benefits of, and the use of these substances.

There are plenty of children and adults who believe that supplements will make them faster and stronger. That they'll have bigger muscles and be more like their favorite athlete. That they'll have a competitive advantage or have what it takes to win. In reality, they are jeopardizing their health. The ignorance of the consequences of using these substances is astounding. A study by Blue Cross/Blue Shield found that 70 percent of kids and half of parents surveyed were unable to identify even one negative side effect associated with performance-enhancing drugs. And 80 percent of kids reported that their parents have never talked to them about the dangers of steroid use. Clearly there is quite a bit of education to be done about these very dangerous substances.

Let me go through just a few of the side effects of steroid use. In both males and females it can lead to increased blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, liver and cardiac dysfunction, increased libido, aggressiveness and appetite, and acne. For males, steroid use can lead to breast development, premature balding, testicular atrophy, decreased sperm count and prostate enlargement. Females can develop masculine sex characteristics including increased body hair, facial hair, deepening of the voice, male pattern baldness and changes to the sex organs. And among adolescent users, steroid precursor use can lead to stunted growth due to hardening of cartilage. Many of these side-effects are irreversible.

Quite troubling to me is that some people are taking these substances unwittingly. It is not unusual for manufacturers of creatine or other performance enhancing substances to put andro or another precursor into their product to give them a competitive edge over a competitor's products.

Clearly these substances are dangerous and they should not be widely available over the counter. That is why I am joining with Senator Hatch and Senator Grassley today to introduce the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2003.

My bill does four things. First, it amends the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 by adding THG, androstenedione and their chemical cousins to the list of anabolic steroids controlled under the Controlled Substances Act and makes it easier for the DEA to add similar substances to that list in the future. This would prohibit people from obtaining these substances over the counter without a prescription in either their pure form or as an additive to another product.

Second, it directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review the Federal sentencing guidelines for crimes involving anabolic steroids and consider increasing them. Currently, the maximum sentence for offenses involving anabolic steroids is only 33-41 months for first time offenders. And to receive the maximum sentence an offender would have to have between 40,000 and 60,000 units, which is defined as a 10 cc vial or 50 tablets. That means that someone trafficking 300,000 doses faces a maximum of three and a half year behind bars. That does not seem to be enough of a deterrent and I hope the Sentencing Commission will consider raising the guidelines for steroid trafficking.

Third, the bill authorizes $15 million for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to public and non-profit entities to carry out science-based education programs in elementary and secondary schools to highlight the harmful effects of anabolic steroids. Preference will be given to programs based on the Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid
Steroids program (ATLAS), the Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives (ATHENA) program, and other programs which the National Institute on Drug Abuse has determined to be effective. ATLAS, which is aimed at male student athletes, has been named as one of the Department of Education's Exemplary Programs and is one of the Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Model Programs. ATHENA is ATLAS's companion program designed for female athletes.

Finally, the bill directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to include questions about steroid use in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual survey to measure the extent of alcohol, drug and tobacco use in the United States. The bill authorizes $1 million for this purpose.

I'm proud to say that the bill has been endorsed by a wide range of medical, athletic and drug policy organizations including: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Pediatrics; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American College for Sports Medicine; American Council on Exercise; American Medical Association; Association of Tennis Professionals; Blue Cross Blue Shield Association; Boys and Girls Clubs; Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; Consumer Healthcare Products Association; Council for Responsible Nutrition; The Endocrine Society; The Hormone Foundation; Little League; Major League Baseball; National Athletic Trainers Association; The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University; National Collegiate Athletic Association; National Federation of State High Schools Association; National Football League; National High School Athletic Coaches Association; National Junior College Athletic Association; National Nutritional Foods Association; Pharmacists Planning Services, Inc.; United States Anti-Doping Agency; U.S. Olympic Committee; U.S. Biathlon Association; U.S. Soccer Federation; USA Cycling; USA Luge; USA Swimming; USA Track and Field and Utah Natural Products Alliance.

I urge my colleagues to support this legislation and I hope that it will be enacted into law soon.

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