League of Fans - January 25, 2005
- Steroid Precursors No Longer Available Over the Counter
- Chairman of President's Fitness Council Peddling Junk Food


- Steroid Precursors No Longer Available Over the Counter

Progress is being made in the fight against untested and unregulated sports supplements. On January 20, 2005, under the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004, "Andro" and other prohormones (also known as steroid precursors) joined anabolic steroids as controlled substances and will now be considered illegal without a prescription under federal legislation signed into law last October.

Baseball fans unfamiliar with performance-enhancing drugs or other sports supplements may remember that Mark McGwire used andro (androstenedione) during his record-breaking home run season of 1998. In response to the doping scandal that has enveloped professional sports in recent years, andro was banned by Major League Baseball in 2004 as it had been by most other major sports leagues, the NCAA and International Olympic Committee.

But it is the health risks associated with muscle building prohormones (which essentially act as steroids inside the human body and carry with them similar side effects) that have brought so much controversy to these substances. Some of the known side effects for men and women include kidney and liver damage, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, increased aggression and severe acne. For men specifically, side effects include breast development, baldness, enlarged prostate, reduced sperm production, testicular shrinkage and impotence. For women, side effects include deepened voice, increased facial hair growth, enlarged clitoris and disruption of menstrual cycles. For teenagers, side effects include disruption of normal growth patterns and processes, and stunted growth.

So, another sports supplement bites the dust. The last to be removed from the market were supplements containing ephedra. After about 150 known deaths from ephedra (and more reports of stroke, arrhythmia, heart attacks, chest pain, seizures and hypertension for ephedra than for all other dietary supplements combined) it took the high-profile 2003 Spring Training death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler to finally get ephedra-containing supplements removed from shelves.

Andro and ephedra products were previously available to everyone, regardless of age, with no guarantees of safety, effectiveness or even ingredients. But even with the ban, it is typical industry practice to replace one untested chemical with another. To be sure, other substances are already available with similar characteristics, and with the lack of testing, potentially comparable and dangerous side effects.

The Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) is the federal law that gutted the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) authority to regulate nutritional supplements. Today, unlike drug products that must be proven by the FDA to be safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, DSHEA frees any product that calls itself a dietary supplement from federal regulation before they reach the consumer and does not require manufacturers and distributors to record, investigate or forward to the FDA any reports they receive of injuries or illnesses that may be related to the use of their products.

Last week, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies issued a report titled "Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States," a major part of which addressed the problems associated with DSHEA. The report recommended to Congress that the regulation of dietary supplements be amended to improve quality control and consumer protections and to create incentives for research on the efficacy of these products.

It is the position of League of Fans that DSHEA be repealed. Public health and safety needs should come before the interests of the powerful and well-funded supplement industry. In sports, supplement use is widespread from the professional level all the way down to the junior high school athletes who easily purchase and fill their lockers with unregulated substances. These athletes are guinea pigs for the sports supplement industry, with no guarantees of safety, effectiveness or even ingredients.

League of Fans does not advocate the ban of dietary supplements, only that they be tested for safety prior to marketing and be produced in facilities meeting guidelines similar to those required of non-prescription and prescription drug makers. We are opposed to the promotion of dietary supplements for any use that has not been proven to the FDA.

More Information:

Andro Supplement Ban Takes Effect
National Public Radio - January 20, 2005

Supplements (this five-part piece is over three years old now, but is still the best report on supplements and DSHEA)
Luke Cyphers and Michael OíKeefe, New York Daily News - July 15, 2001

A deadly game of politics (published after the ephedra-related death of Steve Bechler)
Luke Cyphers, ESPN The Magazine - March 18, 2003

League of Fans' Position on the Use of Steroids and other Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sports - January 14, 2005

Ralph Nader and League of Fans Urge Leaders to Take Real Action Against Ephedra and Dietary Supplement Law - March 11, 2003

* Take Action! *

1) Urge Congress to take real action against the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA):

Contact your senators

Contact your representative

Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard to be connected with your senators' or representative's office: (202) 224-3121 2) Emphasize participation over winning in your own household, school and community. The pressure of a sports environment that has a "win at all costs" attitude jeopardizes health and safety and increases the potential for injury. Our current sports culture fuels the use of performance-enhancing substances at almost all levels of competition and age groups, as well as in most sports. Putting the health and safety of players at risk just to win should have no place in sports. For players, sports should be about safe participation and enjoyment, never winning at all costs.



- Chairman of President's Fitness Council Peddling Junk Food

Conflict of interest? Pro football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, was paid to appear next to a vending machine filled with junk food alongside elementary school kids at a vending machine trade group press conference on January 13.

Over the last 20 years, rates of obesity have doubled in children and tripled in teens and there is a nationwide movement against the junk food and vending machine industries for their roles in this epidemic. Lynn Swann was hired by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) to help push a plan to place labels ranking the nutritional value of vending-machine products in an attempt to beat back efforts by parents and public health groups to curb the sale and marketing of junk food in public schools. This public relations ploy is called the Snackwise Nutrition Rating System and is being promoted as a "national campaign to fight childhood obesity."

"A presidential appointee whose primary job is to promote physical fitness has no business cutting financial deals with an industry that is peddling junk food," said Merrill Goozner of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). "It is a gross conflict of interest. His job is to do just the opposite. His job is to get the junk food out of kids daily diets because it is a major contributor to childhood obesity which is growing at epidemic proportions in this country."

"We knew that he (Swann) was with the Presidentís Council," NAMA spokesperson Jackie Clark said. "That matched our message very nicely. But Lynn Swann asked us not to mention his relationship because it would look like an endorsement from the President's Council. And he is doing this as an individual." But NAMA's press advisory for the event identified him as the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Michael Jacobson, the executive director for CSPI, wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson to urge President Bush to fire Swann and to dismiss any other council members who take junk food money. "An appointment to the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is a great honor," Jacobson wrote. "Surely we can reserve it just for those athletes and others who choose not to profit financially through affiliations with makers and distributors of junk foods."

It is the position of League of Fans that schools should help parents promote health, fitness and good nutrition, rather than support junk food companies that target children with products high in added sugar and fat. School lunch programs should be fully funded and should make healthful food available to children. The marketing and sale of junk food should be prohibited on school property. We discourage sports personalities from paid endorsements for unhealthful products, especially for those marketed to children and those marketed in schools.

More Information:

Bush's Fitness Chair Lynn Swann Hooks Up With Vending Industry
Corporate Crime Reporter - January 12, 2004

Nutrition Watchdogs Urge Firing of Lynn Swann
Center for Science in the Public Interest - January 13, 2005

Michael Jacobson Wants Bush to Fire Lynn Swann
Corporate Crime Reporter - January 13, 2005

Guidelines for Marketing Food to Kids Proposed
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Childhood Obesity Prevention Agenda for States, Municipalities and School Boards
Commercial Alert

Parents' Bill of Rights (PDF)
Commercial Alert

The Fast Food Trap: How Commercialism Creates Overweight Children
Gary Ruskin, Mothering - November/December 2003

* Take Action! *

1) Contact Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson and ask him to urge President Bush to prohibit the commercial endorsement of junk food manufacturers by members of the Presidentís Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

The Honorable Tommy Thompson Secretary Department of Health and Human Services 200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201

tel (202) 619-0257

Note: Secretary Thompson is soon to leave HHS. Confirmation by the full Senate is expected next week for Michael Leavitt, President Bush's nominee to replace Tommy Thompson as Secretary.

2) Support the "Prevention of Childhood Obesity Act" (S. 2894) introduced on October 5, 2004 by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). "A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for the coordination of Federal Government policies and activities to prevent obesity in childhood, to provide for State childhood obesity prevention and control, and to establish grant programs to prevent childhood obesity within homes, schools, and communities."

Among the excellent provisions, the bill would require schools that receive federal funds to establish polices to "ban vending machines that sell foods of poor or minimal nutritional value," such as soda, soft drinks and candy.

The "Prevention of Childhood Obesity Act" is currently in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Contact your senators and urge them to support this bill

Read the summary (PDF) / Read the full text (PDF)

3) Write a letter to the members of your local school board, asking them to ban the marketing and sale of junk food in your local schools.

4) Contact your state legislators and ask them to introduce and support state legislation to ban the marketing and sale of junk food in your stateís schools. To find out the names and contact information of your state legislators, go to the Project Vote Smart website:

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