When metabolized in the body, a steroid precursor produces testosterone. Such legislation would enable the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to regulate these types of products as anabolic steroids.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration announced a crackdown on companies that manufacture, market and distribute products containing steroid precursors, such as andro, which act like steroids once they are metabolized by the body and therefore can pose similar kinds of health risks as steroids.
These products are generally advertised as dietary supplements that enhance athletic performance based on their claimed anabolic and androgenic properties to stimulate muscle growth and increase production of testosterone.
In a statement released last week, Tommy Thompson, secretary of health and human services, urged the senate to take up legislation on this issue as soon as possible, "so we can put these important public health protections in place".
"This is an important piece of legislation that represents a significant step forward as we work to protect our athletes, adolescents and children from the risks posed by anabolic steroids," he continued.
A year ago the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates called for a ban on the sale of over-the-counter dietary supplements containing anabolic steroid-like ingredients and their precursors - substances that have potential to be converted into testosterone or other anabolic steroids.
The HOD resolution also called for a coordinated nationwide campaign to turn back what it suggests is a rising tide of adolescent hormone abuse.
"We must do more to educate the public about the health risks of hormone abuse, especially among adolescents," said AMA Trustee John Armstrong. "The potentially devastating health consequences for young athletes are an enormous price to pay for winning a game. Hormones, when necessary, should only be used under the supervision of a physician."
National surveys conducted since 1991 indicate that the use of anabolic steroids is increasing in high school students, particularly among girls.
The AMA cited the many known health risks of anabolic steroid use in its recommendations, including fertility side effects, the appearance of potentially irreversible masculine traits in females and breast enlargement in males, toxic effects on the liver and cardiovascular system, arrest of growth, and damaging psychiatric side effects.
The AMA expressed concern that dietary supplements possessing anabolic steroid activity, or ones that have components of these steroids or their active metabolites, are readily available over-the-counter or via the Internet.