FDA formally declares new steroid illegal

Tuesday, October 28th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The newly unmasked steroid causing a furor in athletics is an illegal drug, not a dietary supplement, and poses some serious health risks to people who use it, the Food and Drug Administration warned Tuesday.

U.S. drug authorities first learned about the steroid, called THG, this summer after an anonymous tip. It apparently was designed specifically to be undetectable by the standard test given to athletes.

Europe's fastest man _ 100-meter champion Dwain Chambers of Britain _ has admitted taking it, and dozens of top Olympic and professional athletes have been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury probing a California lab that sold alleged nutritional supplements. Now armed with a THG test, sports organizations are scrambling to retest athletes and decide what penalties to impose for its use.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. Some are approved by the FDA to sell, by prescription only, to treat certain muscle-wasting diseases. But athletes use them illegally to bulk up.

Tuesday, the FDA finished its own testing of this newest steroid and formally declared THG a drug that would require its permission to sell in this country _ making any use at this time illegal.

THG actually was derived by some simple chemical modifications of two well-known _ and athletically banned _ synthetic steroids, called trenbolone and gestrinone, said FDA Associate Commissioner John Taylor.

Anabolic steroids can have dangerous side effects, including liver damage, heart disease, anxiety and rage. While little is known about THG's specific effects because it is so new, it likely poses similar risks, Taylor said.

``The greatest importance is preventing exposure and trying to nip this in the bud,'' he said.