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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Right Hand, I'd Like You to Meet Left Hand

I guess it's not unusual for the right hand of Congress to be unaware of what the left hand is doing, or has done. (There are no political implications in the directional signals here.)
Certainly that's the case with the current move to set drug-testing policy for the major professional sports leagues. The Clean Sports Act, as Senators John McCain and Tom Davis call it, would require five tests a year for every athlete, with a two-year ban for the first failure and a life-time ban for the second.
We already have the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004, which went into effect in January. That was just the most recent of several laws to criminalize the sale, purchase, and use of steroids.
On the other hand, we have the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which was passed in 1994. Under that law, dietary supplements derived from herbs and natural sources are classified as food, not drugs. That means that the FDA has no control over them.
The number of dietary supplements on the market has increased from 4,000 to 29,000 in a little more than a year since that law was passed. And a lot of them are misleadingly labeled, either because the manufacturer is unscrupulous or because the production methods are sloppy. The International Olympic Committee in 2002 tested 634 nutritional sports supplements and found that 25 percent of them contained ingredients that weren't listed on the labels. More than half of them contained substances that would have produced a positive test result at the Olympics.
Dr. Elliott Pellman, medical advisor to MLB and the NFL, testified at the recent congressional investigation into steroids that "the most common reason for a positive test is the ingestion of a dietary supplement that is contaminated with a banned substance that is not listed on the label,"
In his testimony before the House Government Reform Committee, Dr. Pellman dared to suggest that Congress, by deregulating nutritional supplements, had contributed to the apparent epidemic of steroid use and abuse.
Of course, the committee members attacked the good doctor for saying such a thing. But the fact remains that the dietary supplement industry has contributed more than $3.6 million to federal candidates and political parties since 2000, making it very unlikely that the supplements will be placed under government regulation in the near future.