Wednesday, June 2, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Study Suggests Andro Doesn't Work -- Supplement Promotes Breast Enlargement, Cancer

The Orlando Sentinel

A new study concludes that a steroid supplement taken by slugger Mark McGwire and other major-league players could be a double-edged sword - not only does it not make them stronger, but it could eventually kill them.

En route to hitting a record-breaking 70 home runs last season, McGwire admitted taking androstenedione (pronounced an-droh-steen-dee-ohn), a substance that enhances the body's production of the male hormone testosterone.

Today's Journal of the American Medical Association contains an article on a study that suggests andro does nothing to boost men's strength and instead might promote breast enlargement, heart disease and cancer.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, meanwhile, has been gathering data to determine if andro should be outlawed, and Commissioner Bud Selig is awaiting results of a Harvard University study commissioned in cooperation with the players' union.

"Some of the leading people in the field, along with the players' association, are looking at the issue," said Pat Courtney, a Major League Baseball spokesman. "You just can't hurry. I'm sure they will take everything into consideration in their findings. We're waiting to hear the results."

Douglas King, an Iowa State University exercise biochemist who led the research published in the medical journal, tracked 20 men, ages 19 to 29, during a weightlifting program. Some took andro during the eight-week study, others took a dummy pill.

The results suggested andro has no effect on testosterone levels in the blood, and King said no difference in strength could be found between the two groups of men.

But the men who took the supplement - 300 milligrams daily - showed significant declines in levels of the "good" cholesterol that helps prevent heart disease. Andro also raised their levels of the female hormone estrogen.

High estrogen in men is known to promote breast enlargement and also is associated with a higher risk of pancreatic and other cancers.

No one at Major League Baseball's executive office is talking about erasing McGwire's name from the record books, but there's little question that his record would be tainted if andro were added to the DEA's list of controlled substances.

It would then be classified as an anabolic steroid and governed by the same laws as marijuana and certain stimulants, depressants and other narcotics.

If the DEA takes that step, McGwire and other players will have to give up andro or risk jail sentences. Anabolic steroids are illegal without a prescription in the United States.

So, it seems the news on andro is bad either way - if it builds muscle through testosterone, the DEA will ban it as an anabolic steroid. If it doesn't, the drug still appears to produce dangerous side effects.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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