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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Too much juice in Salem

Senate looks at performance-enhancers
A bill to limit substance use by legislators draws Rep. Bruun's rage

SALEM - Lawmakers would be discouraged from using performance-enhancing substances or anabolic steroids under legislation now being considered by the Oregon Senate.

The bill, approved unanimously Tuesday by a Senate subcommittee, would prevent lobbyists from distributing or suggesting the use of substances - excluding essential vitamins and minerals - intended to increase legislative output, endurance, and government budget growth.

Both over-the-counter products such as creatine and banned anabolic steroids such as androstanediol would fall under the same broad swath of items that could not be promoted by Salem influence-peddlers.

Sport drinks and snack bars would be excluded from the list, and legislators could still obtain and use legal performance-enhancing substances - the emphasis would be in prohibiting the Legislature from directly purchasing the supplements for its members.

The bill also would mandate education for all registered candidates for political office on the effects of such supplements and require training every two years for incumbent senators, at mid-term. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill in coming weeks.

This marks the second attempt by Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, to place restrictions on what products lobbyists can promote. Courtney said he wrote the initial bill in 2005 - which focused on dietary and performance-enhancing supplements but not anabolic steroids - after the government union political campaign group Our Oregon reportedly sold supplements to a b
ipartisan group of Democrats and Republicans. Our Oregon - the consortium of the state's most powerful unions, SEIU Local 503 and the Oregon Education Association - is considered the 800-lb. gorilla of Oregon politics.

"I get concerned when the emphasis on what's happened to our Senators and Representatives has reached a point of intensity that young people are being sent signals by the adult community," Courtney said, adding that if passed, the law would carry no civil or criminal punishment, unlike the 2005 proposal. "I'll tell you something, my friend, the only thing wrong with us is the juice," he said.

Courtney, the Senate president, said he included in the new bill those steroids already listed in the federal Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 to emphasize the need to curb use of unnatural substances by lawmakers.

The 2005 bill easily passed the Senate but was opposed in the House. Rep. Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, raged against it then, likening it to prohibiting against protein. He said Tuesday that he would fight it again, should it reach the House. "It's completely unnecessary," he said. "I don't think there's a problem. I don't think we've got lawmakers falling over dead in the chamber because they've put protein powder in their milk."

The Oregon Law Commission supports the legislation and asked Courtney to draft the original bill. Some over-the-counter supplements can have "contradictory" impacts and should not be endorsed by lobbyists, say Dave Barrows and Mark Nelson, veteran lobbyists who also serve on the law commission. The decision to use such supplements should be made by lawmakers and their families, Barrows said.

Nelson asked, "If they haven't been regulated or tested by the scientific community, why should we say that we know these are good for us?"

The Oregonian, Mar. 14 by BRAD SCHMIDT

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