YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Governor OKs Supplement Limits

In a reversal, he signs a ban on the use of certain dietary aids by high school athletes. He also approves the labeling of violent video games.

October 08, 2005|Nancy Vogel | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Three months after his financial relationship with a muscle-magazine publisher raised questions of a conflict of interest, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday outlawed performance-enhancing dietary supplements in high school athletics.

The move was an about-face a year after he said most supplements were "safe" and vetoed a similar measure. In a written statement, Schwarzenegger said he had signed a bill that would limit the use of such substances because they "could pose a health threat or create an unfair competitive advantage."

At the time Schwarzenegger vetoed the previous bill, he was under contract to further the business goals of a publishing firm whose muscle magazines are largely supported by the supplements industry.

The new law prohibits high school athletes from using dietary aids banned in college and Olympic sports, and requires high school coaches to be trained in the dangers of these substances. Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) was the author of the measure, SB 37, and the one Schwarzenegger rejected last year.

The governor did not elaborate on why he changed his mind on the supplements ban and did not take questions at a Capitol news conference.

But in the June issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine, the governor wrote a column saying he would "fight any attempt to limit the availability of nutritional supplements," and drew a strong distinction between supplements and illegal steroids.

Until he canceled the contract under public pressure after it was revealed in July, Schwarzenegger was executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines. The five-year deal with the magazines' parent company, American Media Inc., would have been worth up to $8 million. He was paid at least $1.5 million before he quit.

Brenda Marrero of Vacaville, who blames the use of steroids for the suicide of her 19-year-old son, Efrain, a year ago, said she believes there was so much scrutiny of Schwarzenegger's potential conflict of interest that "he didn't have a choice" but to sign SB 37 this year.

"It's just the right thing to do," she said. "It's for our kids. And he's really big on healthy living for children."

On the second anniversary of his election as governor, Schwarzenegger completed, ahead of a midnight deadline today, work on 961 bills passed by the Legislature this year. He signed 729 of those measures and vetoed 232.

He vetoed, as expected, driver's licenses for people who cannot prove legal residence in California. He also rejected bills that would have permitted alternatives to California's high school exit exam and locked in lower taxes for manufacturers of certain flavored alcoholic drinks.

He signed legislation requiring tobacco companies to make the cigarettes they sell in California self-extinguishing, and a bill to allow a $500 penalty against people who send junk faxes.

And with a group of Girl Scouts by his side, Schwarzenegger signed a hard-fought bill that will require video game makers to label their most violent products with a black-and-white "18" sticker and impose a $1,000 fine on retailers who sell the games to anyone under 18.

The bill, AB 1179, had failed to pass the Legislature earlier this year but was resuscitated by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). He credited the bill's success to the lobbying of many young Girl Scouts, who visited nearly every lawmaker to argue for the legislation. The bill passed with bipartisan support.

"What this bill does, basically, it gets the parents involved in the decision-making process when you go to buy or rent these video games," Schwarzenegger said at the news conference.

"I am a parent myself," said the governor, who as an actor starred in many violent films, "and I think this is extremely important that we know what our kids watch and what kind of games that they play."

It's not clear whether the new law will affect the video games spun off from the "Terminator" movies that featured Schwarzenegger. Hal Halpin, president of Interactive the Entertainment Merchants Assn., which represents major retailers that sell video games, said the law probably would not apply to "Terminator" games.

The games have a rating similar to a "PG" movie rating under the voluntary system the industry uses to judge the sex and violence content of the games. The law bans the sale to children of games that include the killing, maiming, dismembering or sexual assault of an image of a human being in a way that is heinous, cruel or depraved. The law leaves it up to manufacturers to label games in that category.

Halpin called the new law unnecessary, given that the industry already rates games, and retailers including Blockbuster, Wal-Mart and Target voluntarily check the identification of people who buy games rated "mature" to be sure they are at least 17 years old.

"We've already committed to doing the things this bill is trying to require us to do," said Halpin.

Los Angeles Times Articles