It is politics, not science or medicine that has created the negative image of Steroids in our society today.
The Ugly Politics of Steroids
Before we get into the politics of steroids first you should know what they are how they are used, read Steroids, The Good. Read Steroids, The Bad if you want to know about their side effects and legal ramifications of anabolic androgenic steroid use.
It is hard to believe that in the seventies AAS were completely legal, nor were they demonized. People just saw steroids as a supplement that helped you put on muscle. Most people have no idea that natural hormones such as Testosterone are steroids or that even something as simple as vitamin D is a steroid. The positive benefits of steroids and how they are used are completely unknown to most people.
The image of Steroids now is completely bankrupt. People either think cheating athletes or disgustingly freakishly over-muscled men with insecurity complexes. The side effects of steroids, while sometimes bad are all manageable. Far worse is how a law abiding citizen who wants to take his fitness to the next level can be jailed for years just for getting a package in the mail.
How this happened in less than thirty years is where real truth about Androgenic Anabolic Steroids is. To understand how this happened we must look at the timeline of events.
The Political Time Line of Steroids
- 1958 – Physician John Ziegler gives some moral steroids to a group of weight lifters. It wasn’t long before word spread throughout the athletic and fitness community about the incredible muscle building power of Androgenic Anabolic Steroids.
- 1975 – The International Olympic Committee bans steroids from being used by any of its competitive athletes.
- 1977 – The sports establishment concerned that certain athletes who decided to use steroids would have an unfair advantage over other athletes asks the American College of Sports Medicine to do something to stop athletes from using AAS. The American College of Sports Medicine tried to “reeducate” athletes by announcing the results from a study they commissioned on AAS and muscle building. The study was intentionally flawed to produce the results they wanted. For proof of this bogus study see Anabolic Steroids and the Athlete by WN Taylor. They pushed this party line hard, despite massive anecdotal and real living evidence to the contrary. The bodybuilding community ignored it and grew bigger. Athletes of all kinds began using AAS more and more.
- 1983 – NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle issues a letter to every player warning them about the dangers of steroid use and threatens disciplinarian action for players caught using them without legitimate medical reasons.
- 1984 -The American College of Sports Medicine came out and finally admitted they were wrong and that AAS was extremely effective at building muscle. Their “reeducation” tactic had failed so now they switched to fear tactics such as “steroids can kill” and they began to focus more and more on younger athletes.
- 1984-1987 – During the next few years there was a dramatic rise in anti-steroid media coverage. The media is always looking for negative and fear inducing news to spike ratings. One California physician who had strong ties to the NFL even stated that “young athletes who take heavy doses of anabolic steroids for 60 to 90 days can expect to die in their 30’s and 40’s” This totally unsubstantiated claim started a media feeding frenzy. It got more intense as the Sports Illustrated story called “The Nightmare of Steroids” by a South Carolina lineman Tommy Chaikin and Rick Telander detailed Chaikins medical and psychological ails after steroid abuse. As the pressure built, Congress began to get more involved.
- 1987 – Doctors, in an effort to keep big Pharmaceutical companies honest start calling for controlled substance status of steroids, not because of any health issues, but to prevent the drug companies from over-producing steroids and allowing those supplies to find their way to the black market so they could secretly profit from AAS. The new bills being proposed to control the distribution of steroids still placed no controls on the manufacturing of steroids by the pharmaceutical companies and of course the drug companies took advantage of that to sell more drugs. See W.D. Taylor M.D’s “Synthetic Anabolic Androgenic Steroids: a Plea for controlled substance status” The Physician and Sports Medicine ( Volume 15, Num 5, May 1987 )
- 1988 – September, amidst a media frenzy Canadian Ben Johnson was stripped of his Gold Medal after testing positive for Anabolic Androgenic steroid use.
- 1988 – November 18 Ronald Regan signs a bill into law as part of the Anti Drug Abuse Act. While this bill did not classify steroids as controlled substances it still called for 3 years prison time for distribution of AAS, up to six years if sold to minors. This law allowed for the arrest of distributors without authorizing the arrest of personal users.
- 1989 – An old man in New Mexico gets a mail order catalog for AAS in his mailbox. The media frenzy around steroids was such that this incident was enough to spurn on a new bill. Bill H.R. 995 proposed to create an “Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act.” Carl Lewis testified on behalf of the bill and even though it did not pass into law it foreshadows how the amateur user of AAS would be treated as felons just for getting AAS via the mail.
- 1990 – Bill HR 4658, The Anabolic Steroid Control Act, gets signed into legislation and adds Anabolic Androgenic Steroids to the Controlled Substances Act by inserting them into 21 U.S.C 802. HGH was also added to the Controlled Substances Act. AAS and HGH were now right up there with Cocaine, heroin and the most addictive psychoactive narcotics in the world.
How Androgenic Anabolic Steroids became as Illegal as Narcotics
As we can see from the timeline above, AAS had a very dramatic thirty year run as a legal supplement. How then did they just become as illegal as cocaine or heroine? A closer look at the details that lead up to the 1990 Anabolic Steroid Control Act holds the answer.
Before a drug can be put into Schedules of Controlled Substances, it must meet the following requirements of 21 USC 811. They are:
- Its actual or relative potential for abuse
- Scientific evidence of its pharmalogical effect
- Current scientific knowledge regarding the drug
- It’s history and current pattern of abuse
- The scoop, duration and seriousness of abuse
- Risks, if any to public health
- Psychic or physiological dependence liability
- Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a currently controlled substance
Only the Attorney General has the authority to add new substances to the controlled substances schedules. The attorney general is supposed to request an evaluation and the official recommendation from the Secretary of Health and Humans Services. The acting Attorney General at the time was Edwin Meese. He went right by the book and asked the Secretary of Health and Humans Services as well as the DEA for their views on adding AAS to the controlled substances schedules.
The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Secretary of Health and Humans Services both evaluated AAS on the basis of the above eight factors. On October 1, 1987, John Lawn Administor of the DEA concluded that Anabolic Androgenic Steroids should NOT be made controlled substances. On March 15, 1988 Secrtary of Health and Humans Services Otis Bowen also agreed that AAS should not be made controlled substances. Both the DEA and Secrtary of Health and Human Services both believed that AAS should not be controlled sustances and made that clear to the Attorney General who in turn made it clear to congress. As you can see by the timeline above congress did not listen as they forced AAS into the controlled substances schedule via the Anti Drug Abuse Act of November 18.
Why did our government ignore the official recommendations of the Attorney General, DEA and the Secretary of Health and Humans Services?
It is up to you to decide why they decided to ignore their own laws.
The amazing thing is how our government officials went on to ask the leading doctors, scientist and experts on steroids to offer their official recommendations and ignore, ridicule and humiliate them for doing so.
What the Doctors had to say
- Dr. Charles Yesalis, Sc.D professor of Health and Human Development at Penn State University, probably the world’s foremost expert on AAS at the time had this to offer for his testimony to the House Subcommittee “Steroids do have a medical use. From an epidemiological point of view of the health dangers, I am much more concerned about cigarettes than anabolic steroids. This is not to say steroids are not potentially dangerous; rather from what we know currently, I am more concerned about the other drugs – and you could likely add the abuse of alcohol to that list than anabolic steroids.”
- Dr. David Bever, an associate professor of Health education at George Mason University had recently concluded a study about AAS use among bodybuilders and power lifters in the D.C. are had this to offer “We did not find that it was as habituating from the standpoint of when the supplies ran out as it was also a financial situation. ‘Geez, that was all the money I had for this cycle. Now I’m going to have to go a number of months without.’ They did, with no problems. Now, there were changes in certain amounts of body mass and the size of people, and they were disappointed, but was not something that they craved uncontrollably again – like psychologically addictive drugs”
- The Deputy Assistant Administrator of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, Gene Haislip was asked to give his testimony to the committee. It was the hope of those politicians on the committee that the DEA would back down from it’s initial stance and Haislip was chosen to give testimony. Instead Mr. Haislip stood his ground and flat out opposed the committee’s proposed bill. “The controlled Substances Act is built entirely and exclusively around drugs which are principally psychoactive and are abused almost exclusively by virtue and because of that property. All of these drugs can be described either as narcotics, stimulants, depressants or hallucinogens.It appears that the motivations is somewhat different from that which is involved in most kinds of drug abuse. It is to develop muscles, to increase physical performance and perhaps simply to look good and appear to be more attractive to members of the opposite sex.” Mr. Gene Haislip of the DEA made it clear that the DEA’s position would be to oppose the bill and that the DEA was not “the appropriate body to enforce any measures of this kind”
- Dr. Edward Langston of the American Medial Association (AMA) was next to testify at the Senate’s Committee. Dr. Langston made clear the offical AMA position. The AMA and Dr. Langston resented how these legislators refused to heed the offical counsel of the Attorney General, DEA and the Secretary of Healh and Human Services. Dr. Langston pointed out that “abuse of steroids does not lead to the physical or psychological dependence as is required for schedulin..” The American Medial Association refused to support the scheduling of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids as controlled substances.
The Politicians Strike Back
You would think that our politicians would humbly accept the advice of the Attorney General, Drug Enforcement Agency, Secretary of Health and Human Services, American Medical Association and the advice of the foremost medical experts. They did not. They were not content just to dismiss this expert testimony but they actually took every opportunity to ridicule and humiliate not just their ideas but they themselves as well.
At a later committee Dr. Yesalis was again called to testify. He warned against using scare tactics saying “The other potential loss of credibility is we are telling people that they are going to be dropping over dead and the athletes are looking at the longtime user and not seeing people dropping like flies. Now, increased death, probability of death, or morbidity could be taking place, but people apparently are not dropping like flies. And I think we have to be careful not to lease further credibility.” Dr. Yesalis also dismissed the notion, as stated by other witnesses, that the effects of AAS could be achieved simply by hard work. Dr. Yesalis stated ” It is almost incomprehensible to think that you could even compete at the high level without these drugs.” Dr. Yesalis also addressed the liver toxicity issue stating, “If you stay away from the oral versions of these drugs, the issue of liver toxicity is really not a great one at all.”
Rep. Daniel Lungren Of California’s 3rd district, who had introduced one of the first anti-bills took it upon himself to push the agenda of the Sports Associations and to bolster his image as a public defender by attacking Dr Yesalis. Rep. Lungren accused Dr. Yesalis of downplaying the side effects. When Dr. Yesalis continued to stand his ground Rep. Lungren then told an anecdote about a friend of his who contracted liver tumors after using AAS and “lost his house trying to pay the medical bills” ( it was later revealed that the patient in question was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam). Dr. Yesalis calmly prevented the facts about liver toxicity and AAS. Rep. Lungren not pleased with how this testimony was turning out switched to “roid rage” Dr. Yesalis again took the stand and condemned a questionable study by two psychatrists, DRs. Harrison Pope and David Katz. The committee had quoted this study often and Dr. Yesalis called them out on it. This was seen as personal defiance by Rep. Lungren’s and he continuted to attack Dr. Yesalis with insults, condescending tones and accusations until Dr. Yesalis finally consented to adding AAS to the very lowest tier of controled substances, Schedule 5 as opposed to Class Three along with narcotics, etc… The reason Dr. Yesalis agreed to this was to stop the black market AAS diversion issue that the Drug Companies were allowing and in fact encouraging for profit. Dr. Yesalis stated that scheduling AAS as class five “would apply pressure to manufacturers of these drugs to stem the apparently high level of diversion of their products to black markets” and that this was “not to interfere with the physician/patient relationship but simply to make the drug companies and wholesalers keep records”
Rep. Daniel was not satisfied so he turned to Dr. Bever. Rep. Daniel assailed him with accusations about covering up the negative social characteristics of AAS. Rep. Lungren bellowed on about Roid Rage and criminal aggression. Dr. Bever responded by citing studies that documented the positive social characteristics of AAS and high testosterone levels, particularly when given to older men. Rep Lungren responded repeatedly with inane comments like “I don’t know what I should get out of that except that I should avoid people with bald heads and beards” The sheer disrespect and ego at play here by politicians who knew next to nothing about the topic was casting a nasty cloud of suspicion upon these committees. It was becoming clear to all impartial observes present that the political agenda far eclipsed the medical one.
What Rep. Daniel did to Dr. Yesalis and Dr. Bever was nothing compared to the clustered onslaught that Dr. Langston of the American Medical Association received. You would think that the chosen representative of the association that represents all the doctors in America would have commanded some respect, but Senator Joseph Biden choose mockery, ridicule and what seemed to many present to be outright harassment. Dr. Langston stood his ground against the addled and resolute senator, but it was ultimately painful just to read the transcript.
Fairness in Sports
It was all about fairness in sports, not medical dangers.
The disrespectful and downright unprofessional attitudes of the politicians against the medical experts who were too honest becomes clearer once we see their personal motivations.
Rep. Richard H. Baker from Louisiana testified that his son was “an Olympic hopeful. Committed to winning the right way.” Rep. Lungren’s son, a new entrant into the Notre Dame football program, had “implored his dad” to pass legislation on steroids because he didn’t want his refusal to use steroids to be a “disadvantage.”
While I do believe these politicians were friendly with the top brass of the sports Associations I do not believe they were on their payroll because I have no facts to support that.
The truth is that the vast majority of athletes in pro sports use steroids as a part of their training. It is just a normal thing. Why don’t drug tests catch them? Read Steroids. the bad to understand why steroid testing does not work, nor can it ever work.
More Steroid Facts
- The General Attorney
- The Secretary of Health and Human Services
- The American Medical Association
- The Drug Enforcement Agency
- The foremost medical experts at the time
Were all against making anabolic androgenic steroids a controlled substance.
A few more facts about Androgenic Anabolic Steroids
- They are now prescribed by doctors more than ever. HRT, hormone replacement therapy continues to benefit thousands of middle aged men.
- Anabolic Androgenic Steroids have never been conclusively linked to a single death. The same cannot be said for the nations most popular high blood pressure medication, which kills thousands of people a year.
The politicians went on their own tangent in support of big business and the media, happy to have more scary news for better ratings helped push it through. Thirty years of this and the public perception of Steroids has completely shifted. It would take a miracle of awareness for it to be balanced again.
There are three articles. The introduction Steroids The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
- Legal Muscle by Rick Collins JD
- Anabolic Steroids and the Athlete by WN Taylor