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Wed Jun 19, 3:40 AM ET By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - American baseball union head Donald Fehr thinks it might be time for Congress to study androstenedione ( news - web sites), but contends that testing players for steroids without cause would violate their privacy.
Fehr told a Senate committee examining steroid use in baseball that "no one cares more about the game, the health of the players, than the players themselves."
The opinion of the players' association and baseball administration diverged sharply on testing. Fehr said the players would work to come up with a solution as part of the collective bargaining with owners on a new contract.
Sen. John McCain ( news, bio, voting record), who requested Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Commerce consumer affairs subcommittee, said sales of androstenedione skyrocketed after the 1998 revelation that Mark McGwire was using the over-the-counter substance.
Muscle-building andro, like steroids, helps the body create testosterone. Steroids are available only by closely tracked prescriptions and can pose a variety of health risks.
"Like it or not, professional athletes serve as role models," McCain said. "That's more important than whether a group of highly paid athletes are using anabolic steroids."
Robert Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said Congress should consider regulating drugs like andro, which McGwire used in 1998 when he broke the home run record.
The Cardinals slugger hit 70 home runs that year and stopped taking the drug the following season, saying he was worried youngsters would follow his lead.
Tuesday's hearing was called following the admission by Ken Caminiti that he used steroids when he was voted National League Most Valuable Player in 1996. Former American League MVP Jose Canseco said up to 85 percent of players took steroids. Both players declined invitations to testify Tuesday.
Sen. Byron Dorgan ( news, bio, voting record), who chaired the hearing, said it was too soon to say whether Congress would follow up with legislation.
"It's a complicated topic," said Dorgan, whose former chief of staff, Lucy Calautti, is now baseball's lobbyist. "There are so many substances - where does one start?"
The NBA, NFL, NCAA ( news - web sites) and the Olympics all ban androstenedione.
Frank Shorter ( news - external web site), an Olympic marathon gold medalist who now chairs the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said andro was originally developed as part of the East German steroid program. He said a 12-year-old can purchase it at a dietary supplement store.
Jerry Colangelo, who owns both the Arizona Diamondbacks and the NBA's Phoenix Suns, noted that basketball has mandatory random tests for steroids.
"Such a step would be a necessary and fundamental step in the direction of ridding steroid use in major league baseball," Colangelo said.
The NFL also tests for steroids. The NHL and major league baseball have no policy regarding their use.
Greg Schwab, associate principal of Oregon's Tigard High School, said reports of major league baseball players using steroids encourages high school athletes to take the drug. Schwab took steroids in the 1980s in an unsuccessful attempt to make the NFL's San Diego Chargers.
"Young athletes often believe that steroid use by their role models gives them permission to use," Schwab said.