Steroids, HGH, and the Honest Senator

The public approval rating for Congress is only 15%.[1] Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of its members as second lowest on a list of 22 professions measured – higher only than car salespeople.[2] Many of us in the bodybuilding and fitness community view what Congress has done with anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as an example of ignorance and hypocrisy.  Let’s imagine interviewing a totally fictional honestmember of Congress on this subject:

Q:  In 1990, Congress added anabolic steroids to the list of controlled substances.[3]  Why?

A:  Pro and Olympic sports are big business and the media frenzy surrounding sprinter Ben Johnson’s 1988 Olympic doping scandal prompted fear that the paying public might lose faith. Factions within sports pushed us to get involved. We held hearings in which handpicked former elite athletes told firsthand accounts of the dangerous consequences of taking steroids. Our goal was to get performance enhancing drugs out of sports and away from kids.

Q:  Then why didn’t you also make HGH a controlled substance, as some people in sports wanted you to do?

A:   We considered it, except that pediatric endocrinologists testified that it would make it harder for short-statured children to get their medicine.  So instead we put HGH into a law that was designed to regulate it on a much lower level – by restricting the distribution of it but not the possession.[4]

Q:  Well that backfired.  The way you worded the HGH law, you created a situation where it’s more highly regulated than any other prescription drug, including steroids.  It’s the only pharmaceutical banned from off-label use.  So drug companies have no incentive to do research into HGH’s potential applications to numerous medical conditions, and physicians who prescribe it risk being investigated as criminals.[5]

A:   We never intended to prevent research or to criminalize doctors other than those who were helping athletes cheat.  FDA and DEA are enforcing the letter of the law, but it’s beyond anything we ever consciously thought about.  We didn’t consider that HGH might show promise for injury repair and for older people. And I don’t think “anti-aging medicine” even existed in 1990. We should probably amend that law.

Q:  Why did you amend the federal law on anabolic steroids in 2004?[6]

A:  The truth is that we really don’t know much about the subject matter we pass laws on. Our goal in 2004 was to close the loophole that allowed new steroids to be marketed as “dietary supplements.” The law failed because our advisors failed us and the wording of the law simply created new loopholes. We might try yet another new Anabolic Steroid Control Act to fix the problem.[7]

Q:  Do you think the overall federal steroid policy has met your original goals?

A:  Who knows?  Teens and competitive athletes still get steroids, and I’ve heard the black market is bigger than ever.  Honestly, I have doubts about our entire U.S. drug policy, as many of us do, but I would never share that publicly. We have to carefully craft our public talking points. The Drug War marches on because being “soft on crime” is a reelection liability.

Q:  Is getting reelected mostly what it’s about for you?

A:  Congress today is a far cry from what the Founding Fathers envisioned.  Once we get this job, we never want to leave. That’s why you’ll never see us pass Congressional term limits. Since it’s incredibly expensive now to run an election campaign, our primary occupation is raising money. Who’s going to contribute the funds required to win an election?  Only those who have a massive interest in influencing us – corporations, the wealthy and “special interests.” Why would anyone donate the millions needed for campaign financing, other than to try to get us to do what we either wouldn’t or shouldn’t do?

Q:  It sounds like a system of institutionalized bribery.

A:  That’s pretty much what it’s become over time, although we publicly call it all “lobbying.”

Q:  So we won’t see a shift on Capitol Hill toward greater tolerance of steroids?

A:   Patented drugs containing testosterone are already being hawked on the nightly news and millions of men are treating their “low T.”  But as far as the off-patent injectable and oral steroids that athletes have used, forget it … unless somebody “lobbies” us to do it. Do you know any potential campaign donors?

Rick Collins, JD, CSCS [www.rickcollins.com] is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation.

[© Rick Collins, 2013.  All rights reserved.  For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Adapted from a column in Muscular Development magazine.]

[1] Gallup Poll, January, 2013.

[2] Gallup poll, November, 2012.

[3] See, 21 US 802 (41)(A).

[4] 21 USC 333(e).

[5] See, Cronin, R., http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/27/Cronin.pdf.

[6] See, https://steroidlaw.com/2008/11/legal-muscle-supplement-online.

[7] See, http://www.supplementcounsel.com/blog/the-designer-anabolic-steroid-control-act-of-2012-the-end-of-the-“prohormone-era”.