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MLB bans use of androstenedione
06/29/2004  4:23 PM ET
Major League Baseball and the players association have added androstenedione to its list of "Schedule III" substances banned under the auspices of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, said MLB's top labor negotiator.

The over-the-counter supplement, colloquially known as "andro," gained public attention in 1998 when Mark McGwire, then with the St. Louis Cardinals, disclosed he used the substance during his pursuit of the single-season home run record that year. McGwire ultimately hit 70 homers, eclipsing the record of 61 set by the Yankees' Roger Maris in 1961.

"We've banned andro based on the movement of the federal government this year," said Rob Manfred, MLB's vice president of labor relations and human resources and also a member of the Health Policy Advisory Committee (HPAC), which has the power to make such decisions under the current Basic Agreement.

The HPAC can immediately place any steroid-based drug on the testing list for Major League players once the federal government moves to ban the substance. The four-person HPAC is made up of one attorney from MLB, one attorney from the union and a medical representative selected by both sides. The parties must vote unanimously for a drug to be placed on the Major League testing list.

This past March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent letters to 23 drug companies, telling them to stop distributing products sold as dietary supplements that contain androstenedione. The letters also warned the companies that they could "face enforcement actions if they do not take appropriate actions," said a message on the FDA's official web site.

"Young people, athletes and other consumers should steer clear of andro because there are serious, substantial concerns about its safety," Health and Human Services secretary Tommy G. Thompson said in announcing the decision. "Young people should understand that there are no shortcuts to a stronger body and that the best way to get faster and stronger is through good diet, nutrition, and exercise."

People produce androstenedione naturally during the making of testosterone and estrogen. When people consume androstenedione, it is converted to testosterone and estrogen. Scientific evidence shows that when androstenedione is taken over time and in sufficient quantities, it may increase the risk of serious and life-threatening diseases, the FDA said on its web site.

Under terms of MLB's current Basic Agreement, which was signed in 2002 and is due to expire on Dec. 19, 2006, MLB and union officials committed to lobby Congress "to revisit the question whether androstenedione should be categorized as a Schedule III substance."

The FDA has in recent months also banned tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) and ephedra. MLB quickly added the steroid-based THG to its list of now 29 anabolic androgenic steroids subject to testing. THG first came to light last year during a federal investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative for alleged Internal Revenue violations and the sale of steroids without a prescription.

The ban of ephedra has been under discussion in MLB. But the union hasn't agreed to place ephedra on the list because it is a root-based stimulant that does not include steroids.

Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, then 23, died last year of heat exhaustion. An autopsy report concluded that ephedra found in Bechler's system probably contributed to the death. The stimulant has already been banned from use in the minor leagues, where MLB can unilaterally make such decisions.

All Major League players on the 40-man roster of each team are subject to random testing for the 29-banned Schedule III drugs in two parts once each baseball season.

Under terms of this season's program, a player testing positive the first time for any of the banned drugs is subject to anonymous treatment. A second positive test would be met with a fine or suspension without pay, plus the public revelation of that player's name.

Congress currently is in the process of trying to ban from the over-the-counter sales any nutritional supplement that acts as a steroids precursor. A version of the bill sailed through the House of Representatives, but its counterpart has not been approved by the Senate.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.