Steroids Disguised as Dietary Supplements

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By A.J. Perez, USA TODAY, 9/28/2009

When federal authorities raided BALCO six years ago, investigators found the San Francisco Bay Area firm had supplied performance-enhancing drugs to a select roster of elite athletes.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs will explore the availability of banned substances — including those developed for BALCO — at health food stores in a hearing this afternoon.

“There are certain steroids and other drugs being masqueraded as dietary supplements,” said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, one of four experts called to testify. “We’re seeing the migration from clandestine labs where designer steroids were being produced for the elite-level athlete to these being distributed to the mainstream where high school and junior high school athletes have access to them.”

The subcommittee is focusing on products that contain steroids or steroid precursors that are marketed as supplements, which make up a fraction of the $24 billion food supplement industry in the USA. The hearing was called by subcommittee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that went without reliever J.C. Romero for 50 games this season after he tested positive for a banned substance linked to a testosterone-boosting supplement.

Tygart said legislation may be needed to close loopholes that allow products to go on the market without approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

Richard Kingham, a Washington-based lawyer who is also scheduled to testify, said consumers can be protected if the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Administration are given the resources to enforce the laws on the books now.

“This is a law enforcement issue,” said Kingham, whose area of concentration is food and drug law.

Kingham said last week’s raid of supplement dealer is a prime example.

Over the last two years, 23 of 31 supplements purchased by FDA investigators from contained anabolic steroids, according to a search warrant unsealed when the company’s headquarters in Boise, was searched on Thursday.

Amanda Cheslock, spokeswoman for, said the website does not manufacture the products and is cooperating with the investigation.

“We’re glad the Congress is looking into this, because anything we can do to separate the legal, safe and healthy dietary supplement industry from the seedy, fly-by-night and unsafe world of illegal steroids is worthwhile,” said Daniel Fabricant, interim executive director and CEO of the National Nutritional Foods Association. Fabricant will testify in front of the subcommittee.

link to related article by James Gormley: click here

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