Some law enforcement officials, judges and legislators are facing up to the dangers of widespread use of anabolic steroids by athletes. Early this year the California Assembly passed the Steroid Education Act, which, if approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, will provide an educational program for students in junior and senior high schools focusing on the negative aspects of performance-enhancing drugs. The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation.
Also in California, four simultaneous raids on Jan. 9 were directed at what police and other sources say was the largest steroid distribution network in the country. Three of the raids took place at the Orange County home, office and storage facility of 36-year-old Jeff Feliciano, who has been a strength consultant to pro and amateur athletes. The fourth hit the Santa Clara storefront office of Steven A. Coons, a weight trainer described by sources close to the case as an associate of Feliciano's. Police said the raids yielded two truckloads of steroids, drug paraphernalia and codeine.
Feliciano was charged with possession of codeine without a prescription and was released on $25,000 bond. Fullerton ( Calif.) police captain Don Bankhead said investigators were sifting through a "tremendous amount" of seized information and that steroid-related charges in the case were under consideration. Court papers filed in the case quote an unnamed informant as telling police that Feliciano had supplied steroids to football players and a coach at Fullerton Junior College. Gene Thirolf, a U.S. Justice Department lawyer involved in the Coons case, said evidence is being presented to a grand jury. Contacted by SI's Armen Keteyian, Feliciano and Coons declined to comment.
In another recent case, a circuit court judge in Prince Georges (Md.) County ruled that a defendant was not criminally responsible for a spree of housebreakings because he had been "suffering from an organic personality syndrome caused by toxic levels of anabolics taken to enhance his ability to win...bodybuilding contests." Michael David Williams, 27, the bodybuilder, admitted to breaking into five Maryland homes last June, stealing jewelry and setting three of the homes on fire. However, his lawyer, in a novel defense, argued that massive daily doses of anabolic steroids had left Williams unable to appreciate the criminality of his acts. Judge Audrey E. Melbourne found Williams guilty on all three counts of arson but accepted the steroid defense and therefore relieved him of criminal responsibility. She ordered him to undergo outpatient psychological examinations.
By contrast with California authorities and Judge Melbourne, much of organized sport remains disinclined to acknowledge the hazards of anabolic steroids. Though the NCAA did finally outlaw steroids at its January convention, none of the major pro leagues has followed suit. Two weeks ago baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth sent a letter to all major-leaguers detailing plans for random testing of some players for cocaine, marijuana and other street drugs, but he made no mention of amphetamines and anabolics. The NHL and NBA have no antisteroid rules. Estimates of steroid use among NFL players run to 30% or more (SI, March 24), yet the league has taken no meaningful action against them.
The leagues profess to be opposed to harmful drugs, but in the case of steroids, they continue to drag their feet.
At the same time that he has ignored steroids, Ueberroth may also have become a mite Pollyannaish about the use of other drugs in his sport. "Drugs are over in baseball," the commissioner intoned last week. "It's flat over." Ueberroth credited the supposed eradication of drugs not only to his own actions but to the will of the players. "It's done because the players want it done," he declared.
Why is it that we are reminded of Vermont Senator George Aiken's famous advice to President Lyndon Johnson when the U.S. seemed hopelessly embroiled in the Vietnam war in 1966? Aiken's advice was simply to "say you won and get out of there." That settles that. So there. It's done.