Empire editorial: Time to outlaw steroids in Alaska

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2005

Through the ages children have been fed many fantastic prohibition lines, from TV-induced blindness to the dreaded chocolate-acne link - see-through scare tactics that probably only further a teen's natural tendency to test limits. Perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that a few of the boys intent on gaining an athletic advantage can't be scared off by the threat of shrunken testicles or breast development, or that some girls will risk facial hair and deepened voices (not to mention cancer). After all, experts say steroids can give a user delusions of invincibility. Steroid allegations in major league baseball sound serious, but the athletes keep hitting home runs and pulling in millions.

Last year 3.4 percent of American high school seniors reported having used anabolic steroids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health. Alaska has the shameful distinction of being one of only two states not to make that a crime.

Some Alaska high-schoolers report that their peers are no different from student athletes elsewhere, which is part of the reason Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, has sponsored a bill to outlaw nonprescription steroids. He says he doesn't suspect rampant use in the state, but wants to keep students from buying potentially dangerous or unhealthful substances over the Internet.

That's a good policy. And while it won't stop the problem entirely any more than acne admonitions keep all kids off chocolate, the bill provides an important new hurdle to anyone willing to risk it and cheat, and, more important, punishes those who supply them.

For the user, the proposal would make nonprescription use of steroids a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. For the distributor, it would be a felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

There is some hope that the current controversy and evolving drug-testing policy for major league baseball may punish the pros who cheat and remove some of the allure of steroids for impressionable children. Until then, the least Alaska can do is to threaten steroid sellers with harsh penalties and add another layer of risk for those who at present can't be scared straight.

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