Originally created 06/26/04

Baseball, FDA ban steriodlike drug



PHILADELPHIA - With little fanfare, Major League Baseball and its players have banned the use of andro, the steroidlike substance made famous by Mark McGwire when he hit 70 home runs in 1998.

The ban, which began this season, was never announced by the commissioner's office or the players' association. Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, referred to it Friday during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors.

"I think it's a good thing," Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina said later in the day in New York. "It's still one of many things to be done."

The Food and Drug Administration banned the sale of androstenedione as of April 12. Baseball's decision, confirmed by management lawyer Frank Coonelly and union lawyer Michael Weiner, took effect the same day and means players who test positive for andro face penalties, including suspensions after two positive tests.

"Baseball has made key progress on several points," DuPuy said, defending the sport's drug policy, which has been criticized by many in the Olympic movement as being too lax.

Coonelly and Weiner said that based on the FDA decision and a study conducted by Harvard in 1999 that was financed by baseball, the union and management concluded andro acted like an androgenic anabolic steroid and should be added to the sport's list of banned substances.

Andro is used by the body to make testosterone. Congress is considering legislation that would designate andro and more than two dozen other steroidlike supplements as controlled substances - making them available by prescription only under certain conditions.

Yankees outfielder Gary Sheffield, among the players who testified before a federal grand jury in California investigating illegal steroid distribution, was not aware of the decision.

"I think it's a good move, but I thought it was already done," said the New York Mets' Todd Zeile. "I thought they had done it the year after Mark McGwire in 1998."

McGwire stopped taking andro the following year.

DuPuy was asked whether baseball would put an "asterisk" next to Barry Bonds' record of 73 home runs, set in 2001, if the slugger used steroids.

"We're not going to speculate on what would be done if," DuPuy said. "There's no evidence of any time period. There's no evidence of the record having been affected by that.

"Bonds has repeatedly denied and (Victor) Conte has repeatedly denied any steroid usage or any distribution to Barry Bonds. It's only someone he's never met who came out and suggested he had given steroids to Bonds. I don't want to sit here and prejudge any player's usage or nonusage."

Wadler called the current investigations "painful."

"In many ways, we don't want to hear it because it shames us to see our heroines and heroes tarnished," he said.