July 13, 2004

The Abuse of Anabolic Steroids and Their Precursors by Adolescent and Amateur Athletes

The Honorable Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Mr. Chairman, thank you for convening this hearing today to put the spotlight on the issue of the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs by adolescents. This is certainly a timely issue with the All Star game being played tonight in Houston, the Olympic games around the corner and a cloud of suspicion surrounding some of America's top professional and Olympic athletes.

Over a decade ago I introduced a bill to make anabolic steroids illegal. After it became law, it took very little time for innovative scientists to develop new substances and rediscover old ones that were legal under of the letter of my law but certainly violated its spirit.

These new substances, called steroid precursors or pro-steroids, are one step removed from illegal steroids.

In the words of the United States Anti-Doping Agency the folks who drug test Olympic athletes they are "the functional equivalent of steroids."

Not only are these substances polluting our professional sports leagues and Olympic teams, but use of these harmful substances is also is setting a horrible example for our children. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly three-quarters of kids say they want to emulate professional athletes.

But more than half of those kids believe their sports heroes use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to win.

The recent 42-count indictment of individuals accused of distributing steroids to professional athletes only reinforces that view.

And if you want evidence that an athlete can influence the habits of fans, consider this: When Mark McGwire admitted he used andro during his home-run record-breaking season, sales of the product soared.

In my view, access to these performance-enhancing drugs is not only a health issue but also a values issue.

If kids think that all of the best athletes are "on the juice," what does that teach them?

I think it teaches them that they should use drugs to get ahead and win the game; that cheating is OK. This offends me to my core.

The United States is the ultimate meritocracy and it is absolutely un-American to take a performance-enhancing drug to get an unfair competitive advantage.

Too many kids and adults believe that supplements will make them faster and stronger and never think about the health consequences.

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.

One of our witnesses today, Dr. Don Catlin, will give us a detailed description of some of the side effects of steroid use they are serious and quite graphic in nature.

The bottom line is this: products that put users at this type of risk should not be available over the counter as dietary supplements. Period.

The federal government must stop treating steroid precursors like vitamins and classify them as the dangerous drugs that they are.

In order to accomplish this, last October Senator Grassley and I introduced the Anabolic Steroid Control Act. The bill has widespread support.

It has the endorsement of a wide range of medical, athletic and drug policy organizations.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush supported the principles behind the legislation when he called on leagues, team owners, players and coaches to rid professional sports of performance-enhancing drugs.

In March, the Secretary of Health and Human Service, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and Commissioner of Food and Drugs took the President's statement one step further when they held a press conference to endorse my bill.

And last month the House of Representatives passed a companion bill, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sensenbrenner, by a vote of 420 to 3.

The legislation would add THG, andro and their chemical cousins to the list of anabolic steroids controlled under the Controlled Substances Act and make it easier for the DEA to add similar substances to that list in the future.

It also directs the United States Sentencing Commission to review the Federal sentencing guidelines for crimes involving anabolic steroids and consider increasing them.

And finally, it authorizes $15 million for school-based programs highlighting the harmful effects of anabolic steroids.

With the Olympic games swiftly approaching and stories about athletes and doping scandals in the news nearly every day we have unprecedented momentum to pass this bill.

Yet, the Senate has not acted to move this legislation at all.

The bill has been held hostage while some of my colleagues try to resolve an unrelated issue.

Meanwhile, steroid precursors remain on the shelves and kids continue to buy them.

This issue is far too important to play politics with.

I have here two letters urging the Senate to pass this legislation. One is from a coalition of 20 sports and medical groups. The other is from Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. I ask unanimous consent to submit them for the Record.

It is my sincere hope that all of our witnesses today and all of my colleagues will work together to pass this legislation before the Senate recesses for the month of August.

Again, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for convening this hearing today and I look forward to a frank discussions with our witnesses today.