November 25, 2013
Fearful of steroids? Avoid supplements
Portland, Oregon EditorialA tentative provision in the employment contract between Portland police and the city provides that any officer found to have steroids in his or her system may avoid firing if it can be shown the origin of the banned substance was an off-the-shelf sports supplement. Put another way, any cop would get a second chance – and a third and fourth, perhaps, in subsequent mandatory testing – if the detectable presence of the steroid were determined to be an accident. Remember poppy seeds? From the time Bill Clinton did not inhale till now, it has been widely and correctly held that avoiding the muffin or bagel with poppy seeds before drug testing is a wise course. That’s because poppy seeds have been known to sometimes contain traces of opiates such as morphine and codeine – baddies if you’re trying to show to an employer or the government that you do not engage in substance abuse. The use of sports and nutritional supplements by police officers is widespread and known. Often, cops consume them – the power protein shake, for example, from just about any grocery store – as a surrogate meal while on duty. They’re less expensive and require less time than the drive-through at Jack In The Box. Sometimes, too, body-building cops worried about advancing age and declining physique consume supplements in the hope of remaining tough and fit. But many supplements go unregulated. Despite occasional saber-rattling from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some makers of supplements allow into their potions unknown quantities of anabolic steroids or prohormones, which act to amplify some of the body’s normal hormones, like testosterone. No amount of labeling covers it, though that should change following the discovery this year of anabolic steroids in a B-50 vitamin complex sold by Healthy Life Chemistry and linked to hair loss in women and impotence in men. Despite occasional saber-rattling from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, some makers of supplements allow into their potions anabolic steroids.
Now Portland faces a union contract allowing cops to defend themselves as victims of unscrupulous vendors. Even though the cost of follow-up testing and the burden of proof would be on the unlucky police officer, Portland shouldn’t be getting into the business of enabling modern snake oil salesmen by allowing otherwise upright public servants to cry foul while potentially compromising their health. Portland also should not enter into a deal that allows exception to a useful, relatively new drug-testing policy requiring termination of any officer found to have any of several substances in his or her system. It is worth noting that of the roughly 600 officers tested annually since the institution of drug-monitoring, nobody has tested positive.