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Supply of Performance Enhancers 'Virtually Unlimited'

March 18, 2005 -- Baseball executives, players, and lawmakers clashed Thursday on whether anabolic steroid abuse is a significant problem in the major leagues.

But there's no doubt that many kid athletes are emulating their professional heroes. And it turns out that anabolic steroids are pretty easy to get.

Some kids are trying to gain a physical edge at any cost. Others may simply crave the more athletic and muscular physique that eludes so many boys and girls.

As many as one in 29 high school seniors and half a million kids in all had tried anabolic steroids without a doctor's guidance in 2004, according to figures released by the CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A staggering 40% of high school students in the most recent National Household Survey on drug abuse said that anabolic steroids are "easy" to get.

From the Internet to the Border

A simple Google search for the terms "buy anabolic steroids" yields more than 2.8 million hits, as well as featured advertisements including one offering customers the chance to "break through your natural limitations, and build a freaky, extremely muscular physique."

There is no way to know how many of the sites offer anabolic steroids as opposed to related precursors or simple placebo scams. But the sites reflect what some officials and experts say is a huge international market that promises a ready supply to almost anyone who seeks the drugs.

"There's just so much stuff coming into the country that it's difficult to police," says Richard Cleland, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission's division of advertising practices.

Gary I. Wadler, an expert who testified at the baseball hearings Thursday, warns that anabolic steroid use often escapes the stigma suffered by other illegal drugs such as heroine and cocaine. Anabolic steroid users are likely to like the drugs' effects on their bodies, a feeling that is unwittingly reinforced by parents and peers who notice more confidence and better performance on the playing field.

The lack of stigma can make anabolic steroid sellers more like welcome fixtures in gyms than shady sellers who are viewed as criminals.

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