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Prisoners Protest Ban on Dumbbells

February 16, 2004

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) _ Denmark’s justice minister lashed out Monday at prison inmates who staged a brief riot to protest a decision to remove heavy weights from their workout rooms and crack down on the use of anabolic steroids.

``It is not the prisoners who are in control of the Danish prisons,″ said Justice Minister Lene Espersen. ``If they believe that vandalism, assaults and threats can promote their case, they are wrong.″

On Sunday, a group of 100 prisoners at the Nyborg State Prison set two offices on fire and demolished furniture. No one was injured in the unusual 90-minute riot.

Inmates later told Danish media they were protesting a decision by Denmark’s Prison and Probation Service last month to remove all dumbbells and weights of more than 66 pounds from the country’s 80 state prisons and probation centers.

The decision was made after prison personnel said that they felt threatened by inmates who were becoming bigger through heavy training and use of anabolic steroids.

``Some inmates have grown to abnormal size,″ Carsten Pedersen, the chairman of the Union of Danish Prison Officers, said last month. ``They have become monster men.″

The prison board’s decision came after officials had reported ``several cases of inmates with aggressive attitudes,″ Pedersen said, adding that they represented about 300 of Denmark’s 3,500 inmates.

Although anabolic steroids that promote muscle growth are banned in Denmark, synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone are common in prisons.

``The effort against heavy training and anabolic steroids in the prisons will of course continue whether the inmates like it or not,″ Espersen said. Those who instigated the riot have not been identified yet, she added.

The prison in Nyborg, 87 miles west of Copenhagen, is one of Denmark’s top security prisons and houses 187 inmates.

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On the Net

Prison and Probation Service: http://www.kriminalforsorgen.dk/uk_web/index.html

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