Saturday, February 16, 2008

Where is Congressional investigation of steroid abuse among law enforcement?

Ever since the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) began selectively prosecuting high-profile athletes amidst Congressional media grandstanding, I've been wondering why the same focus isn't placed on law enforcement, where there's at least as much evidence of widespread use.

It turns out a fellow Texan beat me to that argument; Dr. John Hoberman of UT-Austin in 2005 wrote an informative article on the subject ("Dopers in Uniform," May 22, 2005). The full, footnoted piece is well worth reading, but here's an excerpt that shows the connections between police and steroids has been recognized for quite some time:
One of the remarkable anomalies of the anti-steroid campaign of the past two decades is that it has virtually ignored the many reports of steroid use by police officers in the United States and in other countries. Unknown but clearly significant numbers of policemen have imported, smuggled, sold, and used anabolic steroids over this time period. According to an article that appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin in 1991: "Anabolic steroid abuse by police officers is a serious problem that merits greater awareness by departments across the country." In 2003 another expert offered a similar assessment. Little research has been done on the use of steroids by police, said Larry Gaines, former executive director of the Kentucky Chiefs of Police Association. "But I think it's a larger problem than people think.".

A segment of the CBS-TV program "60 Minutes" had already made that point on November 5, 1989. "Beefing Up the Force" presented interviews with three officers whose use of steroids had apparently caused the hyper-aggressiveness that had gotten them into serious trouble. The worst case involved what one psychiatrist called "a real Jekyll and Hyde change" in the personality of a prison security guard in Oregon who had kidnapped and shot a woman who made a casual remark he didn't like. He got 20 years in prison, and she was paralyzed for life. The personality he presented during his prison interview made it seem utterly improbable that he would have been capable of such an act. But his testosterone level when he committed the crime was 50 times the normal level. This broadcast conveyed the message that steroid problems were lurking in many police departments across the country, and that police officials were turning a blind eye to a significant threat to public safety.

It was no accident that the "60 Minutes" segment paid special attention to a "hard core group" of steroid users on the Miami police force. Two years earlier the Miami Herald had run a long article on steroid-using police officers. The seven notorious Miami "River Cops", who in 1987 were on trial for alleged crimes including cocaine trafficking and conspiracy to commit murder, included Armando "Scarface" Garcia, a weightlifter who had publicly admitted to taking steroids. "There's a great potential for an officer abusing steroids to physically mistreat people," said the police chief of nearby Hollywood, Florida, who had told his investigators to be on the lookout for officers who looked like "small mountains." The Miami Herald article may have been the first of the tiny number of analytical treatments of this subject that have appeared in American newspapers since the 1980s.
So the next time you hear someone say that steroid abuse isn't a problem among cops or that there isn't a documented need to investigate the issue compared to professional athletes, you might share Dr. Hoberman's piece with them. (I can't find the referenced 1991 FBI Bulletin online, but I'll see if I can lay my hands on it.)

The House Government Oversight Committee's grandstanding witch hunt over steroid use in sports constitutes one of the craven abuses of power I've seen in a while. In an election year, Waxman's antics honestly makes me wonder whether national Democrats are ready to run the country? The Chairman actually told the New York Times:
“I’m sorry we had the hearing. I regret that we had the hearing. And the only reason we had the hearing was because Roger Clemens and his lawyers insisted on it.”
Well gee, sir, NOW you regret it? Who controls the damn committee besides you? Clemens insisted on the hearing because the other option was for you to issue a report smearing him without including his side of the story! Houston lawyer Rusty Hardin's views are closer to my own on this when he:
said Waxman’s statements were “unbelievable, disingenuous and outrageous.”

“He is the one who created this circus in the first place,” Hardin said of Waxman, contending that Clemens and his lawyers had asked several weeks ago for the hearing to be called off, only to be rebuffed by Waxman’s staff.

“We didn’t think any good would come out of having a food fight with the accuser,” Hardin said in reference to McNamee. But once the depositions were taken last week, he said, the Clemens side felt it had no choice but to proceed, fearing that the committee would use the depositions to produce a hostile written report. “We wanted this out in the open,” Hardin said.
The Justice Department should never have assisted Mitchell Report investigators, and certainly it was a mistake to include uncorroborated allegations from an informant who'd been threatened with incarceration. The hearing was little more than an elaborate perjury trap.

But more than that, why is Congress investigating baseball, anyway, especially when the feds have known for two decades there's a significant problem with steroid abuse in law enforcement they're utterly ignoring? Where are your priorities, Chairman Waxman?

I'm still wondering, as are many Americans, why the steroid hearings were so partisan, with Republicans mostly supporting Clemens and Democrats like Waxman fairly openly supporting Brian McNamee? Stephen Colbert suggested the other night it was because Republicans supported drug users while Democrats supported drug dealers! That explanation makes about as much sense as any. But nothing I've heard explains to my satisfaction why this was any of Congress' business.


Anonymous said...

At worst, steroid use in sports harms the health of athletes.

At best, steroid use in law enforcement harms the health of officers. That's at best. Every other consequence is worse.

How many athletes are guilty of murder and mayhem?

Anonymous said...

Folks in a position of authority still believe they have to be bigger, stronger, meaner if they are to succeed.

This is America, we have to be smarter in order to succeed! It doesn't matter if we're in a position of authority, we have to be smarter. Also, Hard work doesn't hurt in the quest for success.

Law enforcement use of performance enhancing drugs is an admission of failure and if we allow it to continue, we'll all fail!

Anonymous said...

Grits, did you see Republican pollster Frank Luntz on Real Time with Bill Maher last night? He had one of the all time great lines on the partisan hearings.

"Republicans favor drug users, Democrats favor drug dealers."


Anonymous said...

and grits favors both.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Compared to Henry Waxman, 9:37? Probably. Certainly as the discussion pertains to steroids. I've given my own views about when and why prosecution is warranted in steroid cases here.