In a three-part series published in December, The Star-Ledger of Newark revealed a steroid abuse scandal within the ranks of police officers and firefighters in the Garden State.
The newspaper found that nearly 250 police officers and firefighters - mostly in the Jersey City area - were using anabolic steroids and other hormones. And while those interviewed insisted they were using the drugs for legitimate medical reasons, the doctor at the heart of the case, Joseph Colao, frequently faked diagnoses and sold growth hormone on the side, according to the newspaper.
The series also revealed that millions of dollars in taxpayer money was used because many officers paid for the drugs through their public health benefits.
The series set off a firestorm - and rightfully so.
New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow quickly created a task force to determine how widespread steroid use is within New Jersey's law enforcement community and whether doctors are prescribing the drugs too freely. She also wants the task force to explore the possibility of including anabolic steroids to random testing of law enforcement officers.
This week, Deputy Assembly Speaker Jack McKeon, D-West Orange, proposed two bills in the Legislature - one that would require steroid tests for police officers and firefighters and another that would mandate fitness-for-duty testing for public safety officers who have prescriptions for steroids or human growth hormone.
Legitimate, carefully monitored use of steroids for medical reasons is one thing. Abuse to beef up muscle mass is another. This is a public safety issue. Public safety officers, especially police officers who carry guns, should not be using drugs that have been linked to increased aggression and recklessness - so-called 'roid rage.
Testing to prevent abuse is not too much to ask. http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/today/index.ssf/2011/01/opinion_test_nj_officers_for_s.html