In the latest move by Congress to address the problem of steroids in sports, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, gave the Food and Drug Administration a Nov. 7 deadline to explain what it is doing to ensure that dietary supplements do not contain anabolic steroids.

In a letter sent Friday to FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, Davis requested information regarding the FDA's oversight and monitoring of the dietary supplement industry and its plans to review five dietary supplements that contain steroids, as reported in an Oct. 18 Washington Post story.

"While the FDA does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness, FDA still has the responsibility to ensure that manufacturers do not mislead the consumer about dietary supplement contents," Davis wrote in the letter. "With the five dietary supplements tested in the previously mentioned Washington Post article, consumers could not know that they contained anabolic steroids."

Don Catlin, of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory in Los Angeles, analyzed the five products -- Applied Lifescience Research Industries' (ALRI) Ergomax LMG, Anabolic Xtreme's Superdrol, ALRI's Prostanozol, PharmGenX FiniGenX Magnum Liquid, and Legal Gear's Methyl 1-P -- for The Post and concluded that all contained anabolic steroids that were designed to avoid detection in current drug tests. The Post reimbursed Catlin for the cost of the testing.

The World Anti-Doping Agency recently announced that it would add steroids in three of the products -- all of which have been readily available online for between $50-$125 per bottle -- to its 2006 banned list.

The FDA could not immediately be reached for comment.

This February, the Committee on Government Reform began to investigate the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports, holding hearings on steroid use and the testing policies for professional baseball, football, and basketball, as well as the use of steroids among women.

-- Amy Shipley