Hazelton breaks down before Congress

Updated: March 16, 2004, 6:29 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- A former professional boxer broke down crying before Congress Tuesday, pleading for tough action against the use of steroids and similar products that he blames for the loss of his legs.

Bob Hazelton, who became a heavyweight in 1969 and won a series of victories in the ring until being TKO'd by George Foreman, railed against the evils of steroid use as he testified from a wheelchair in front of a House subcommittee.

The panel is considering legislation that would expand the list of banned steroids to include so-called pre-cursors, which act like steroids in the human body but are available over the counter, often as dietary supplements.

Hazelton said his use of steroids eventually stopped the circulation of blood to his legs, which had to be amputated as gangrenous infections spread up his body.

The 55-year-old Minnesota native had harsh words for professional sports executives who, he said, aren't doing enough to stop athletes from the peculiar form of self-abuse.

"These owners of these professional teams, they don't want [players] to know the truth," Hazelton said, before losing control of his emotions.

"Just take a deep breath," said subcommittee chairman Howard Coble, R-N.C. "Everybody's on your side."

When he resumed speaking, Hazelton raged against pro sports leagues and Congress for allowing the problem of performance-enhancing drugs and supplements to grow in recent years.

"Until this committee -- this country -- stops it, you're never going to have a clean sport in this country again," he said.

Baseball has faced particularly harsh scrutiny from the federal government after four people tied to a San Francisco company were indicted on charges of supplying steroids to athletes.

Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., is pushing the House version of a bill that would ban over-the-counter sales of pre-cursors because they have the same effect in the body as steroids. A similar measure is being considered in the Senate.

"The industry can, and will, we have learned, make minor chemical changes to a product after it is deemed illegal," Sweeney told the panel.

To counter that practice, the bill would change how the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies steroid-like substances in the future, removing the requirement that the government prove through its own scientific testing that the product in question definitely causes muscle growth.

Because of that current limitation, the DEA has not identified a new steroid under the prohibited list of products "despite years of testing costing hundreds of thousands of dollars," said DEA Deputy Director Joseph Rannazzisi.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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