NEW YORK Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering measures that would crack down on steroid use by police and firefighters, some of whom abuse the drugs in their efforts to keep physically fit, experts say.
The state Assembly bills introduced on Monday, believed to be the first of their kind in the nation, would require health evaluations before law enforcement could be prescribed anabolic steroids and growth hormones, and would add such drugs to a list of substances for which law enforcement employees are randomly tested.
"This is focused on uniformed public employees, but this is really a nationwide problem," said Assemblyman John McKeon, the Deputy Speaker who introduced the bills.
"A lot of these anti-aging clinics and charlatans are selling these products, and we need to examine the long-term health problems."
The National Conference on State Legislatures said it did not know of any similar legislation in other states and New Jersey's measures could be the first in the nation. Most steroid laws regulate high school athletes, it said.
Law enforcement steroid use is a problem around the country and, given that steroid use can cause aggression, can invite problems for police, said Larry Gaines, chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice at California State University in San Bernadino, California.
"Aggression is not very common but nonetheless it's a possible problem," Gaines said. "If it does occur, you could see lawsuits against police departments regarding citizens injured from steroid rage."
Competitiveness is a major reason why police and firefighters might use steroids, he said.
"A number of departments focus very highly on physical fitness and ability," Gaines said.
"Secondly, a lot of these officers see substantial dangers on the job so they feel they should be in some kind of top level of physical fitness."
The New Jersey Firefighter Mutual Benevolent Association, a state firefighters union, welcomes any initiative to crack down on steroid abuse, said president Bill Lavin.
"We're obviously in favor of testing and not in favor of using illegal drugs of any sort," Lavin said. "I think steroids represent a small segment of our industry, and certainly we're in favor of doing anything to curtail it."
The New Jersey measures come in response to reports last month of a local doctor who illegally supplied hundreds of police and firefighters with anabolic steroids, human growth hormones and other muscle-building drugs.
"Just like everybody I was outraged," said McKeon. "Being in the position I'm in, I'm even more outraged about the multiple millions of dollars that has cost our system for the years to come."
The state attorney general is investigating the allegations, first reported last month by the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper, that millions of taxpayer dollars were illegally spent on the drugs, spokesman Paul Loriquet said.
McKeon said he hopes the bill will stop police and firefighters from abusing steroids, saying most of them probably do not have a medical reason to use them.
(Reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)