Ill-Informed Legislation to Address Steroid Use by New Jersey Cops

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New Jersey legislators have introduced new bills to address the use of anabolic steroids by New Jersey law enforcement personnel. The proposed legislation is an ineffective, ill-informed knee-jerk response to an investigative series by the Newark Star-Ledger exposing the high-number of cops obtaining prescriptions for anabolic steroids. The newspaper questioned the validity of such prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy and the legitimacy of the doctor(s) issuing them.

New Jersey Deputy Speaker John McKeon, one of the sponsors of the proposed legislation, was outraged by the use of taxpayer-funded health insurance for cops’ medically-prescribed testosterone; his solution is to waste additional taxpayer money with the introduction of steroid testing for police officers. Well, guess what? If an officer is prescribed testosterone by their doctor and they take a steroid urinalysis, they will test positive for steroids. This aspect of the proposal in itself is ill-conceived and accomplishes nothing.

Part of McKeon’s less-than-brilliant balanced approach to handling the issue of hormone replacement therapy for cops is to subject them a “fitness for duty” evaluation by a departmental designated physician. An officer’s fitness for duty would be determined by the physician’s  “professional medical opinion” and not necessarily by blood or urine tests. Clearly, McKeon does not realize that it is not quite so simply to determine the medical legitimacy of hormone replacement therapy with a simple “fitness for duty” evaluation.

“Like the rest of New Jersey, when I read this, I was outraged by what the cost of this will be to the taxpayer for many, many years to come,” McKeon said. “It’s not only the cost of the prescriptions. When you consider the known health risks that come along with steroid use and that these officers and firefighters are on state health benefits, it’s something taxpayers will be paying tenfold for.”

McKeon said he also was concerned about the possibility of increased aggression among officers who use steroids, saying it could endanger the public and lead to big taxpayer-funded payouts in civil suits.

Perhaps, McKeon has bought into the hysteria about steroids side effects and thinks that law enforcement officers using steroids without a legitimate need will display obvious “roid rage” and/or other psychological disturbances that will easily deem them unfit.

In actuality,  reviews of the scientific literature have shown that steroid-induced aggression is very rare. Psychological evaluations of cops using hormone replacement therapy and those not using anabolic steroids are unlikely to reveal any differences between the groups.

It is also unlikely that any health evaluations would show that cops prescribed hormone replacement therapy would have any more health risks than officers not using testosterone. The most likely side effect would probably be alterations in blood lipid profiles but, like millions of Americans who don’t use steroids already know, cholesterol and triglyceride problems affect a very large percentage of the non-steroid using population. It is unclear how an undefined “fitness for duty” evaluation will provide a real solution to the problem of determining the validity of prescriptions.

The proposed legislation is ill-conceived and will accomplish nothing other than to waste taxpayer money. The end result is that nothing changes. The bill simply provide an opportunity for some political grandstanding where legislators can appear to take a strong stance on an issue and the public outrage is assuaged while New Jersey law enforcement continues to use hormone replacement therapy as before.  Except this time, New Jersey has created a process by which it is fully condoned and sanctioned.

Newark Star-Ledger expose on steroid use by cops

About Millard Baker