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Baseball To Examine Supplements

August 26, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Major league baseball and the players union asked doctors Wednesday to gather information about players’ use of muscle-enhancing pills.

The announcement by commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Donald Fehr comes in the wake of Mark McGwire’s admission last week to The Associated Press that he has been using the testosterone-producing pill androstenedione for more than a year.

``Obviously, the health of our players is of vital concern for all of us and we want to take every precaution to assure they receive the most accurate medical and scientific information,″ Selig said.

Use of androstenedione (pronounced Andro-steen’-die-own) is legal in baseball but banned in the NFL, Olympics and the NCAA.

``No one can be faulted for staying entirely within the rules,″ Fehr said. ``We look forward to hearing from our medical representatives.″

A joint commission of doctors from the commissioner’s office and the union will gather information about these pills and consult with other experts on the use of nutritional supplements by players.

Androstenedione is an adrenal hormone produced naturally in men and women. It is converted in the liver to testosterone, which is used in muscle production.

The Food and Drug Administration says supplements are closer to a food than a drug and thus not subject to regulation.

Though no definitive studies have shown any harmful side effects, skeptics say the supplements could potentially have dangerous side effects similar to those of steroids, such as liver damage and heart problems.

Meanwhile, General Nutrition Centers, a national chain of nutrition-supplement centers, ordered its 3,700 stores not to sell androstenedione because of safety concerns.

In a June 9 memo obtained by the Chicago Tribune, GNC said that its own review of scientific literature concluded that ``the use of androstenedione without risk of adverse events cannot be demonstrated.″

``The decision was made on the lack of suitable short- and long-term research demonstrating the safety of the product at various intake levels and concern about the potential impact of product abuse,″ the Tribune reported Wednesday, quoting from the memo.

Other chains, however, do not share General Nutrition Centers’ concerns. Great Earth Vitamin stores, a chain of 138 franchises in 23 states, sell androstenedione over the counter and by mail order.

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