John Stossel

With the return of baseball and a new book on Alex Rodriguez released this week, a fresh round of congressional posturing about steroids is upon us.

Why is it Congress's business?

I asked U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., about that for my next TV special, "Don't Even Think about Saying That!," which will air this Friday on ABC.

"This is part of our duty," Cummings says, "to protect the American people." Steroids are "a serious public-health problem."

Stearns added, "Teenagers commit suicide."

And Congress will fix it all.

Of course, people like Dr. Gary Wadler testify in Congress that steroids do horrible things.

"The threat is dying! The threat is suicide!" Wadler told me.

I'd heard such scary claims for years. Death by steroids. "Roid rage" worthy of after-school specials.

Years ago, when a pro wrestler beat me up, I was told that steroids drove him to do it. Steroids were blamed for wrestler Chris Benoit killing himself and his family, and teenage baseball star Taylor Hooton's suicide.

But Dr. Norman Fost, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin, says it's all bunk. The anti-steroid movement, he says, is filled with hysteria and hype.

"The horror stories about the medical claims . . . some of them are just frankly made up."

Fost insists there's no correlation between injectable steroids and brain tumors.

To my surprise, Wadler admits that's true. And he's not so certain about other claims. When I asked him if steroids cause strokes, he said, "It's on a possible list."

Heart attack?

"The likelihood of anabolic steroid abuse being associated with heart disease is real."

Note the waffle words like "possible" and "associated." He uses them because -- unlike smoking and cancer -- there are no long-term epidemiological studies that show steroids cause those diseases.

Every drug is "associated" with side effects. Advil is associated with ulcers and shock.

It's not that steroids are perfectly safe. But why single them out?

"We don't stop Natasha Richardson from skiing," Fost notes. "We don't stop people from eating lemon meringue pie ... People everywhere take enormous risks way greater than even the hyped-up risks of steroids."

Yes, steroids use is associated with hair loss, acne, testicular atrophy and even growing male breasts. But Fost says those side effects would be minimized if steroids were legal.

"If athletes are going to use these things, it would be better to have them on the table where informed doctors can help them get the right drug with the right dose and fewer side effects.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate