Utah doctors will be prohibited from prescribing steroids for athletes for body enhancement if a bill introduced Tuesday in the Legislature passes.

The bill would also make the drugs a controlled substance, similar to codeine and Valium.The bill's sponsors, by Sens. Richard J. Carling and Kay S. Cornaby, both R-Salt Lake, say they hope it will stop doctors from arbitrarily prescribing the drugs.

"It is not prohibiting the use of steroids, but regulating doctors from prescribing them for athletic reasons only," Carling said.

The senator said SB120, "Regulation of Steroid Use," resulted from expressed anxiety among the sports community about the widespread use of steroids.

A recent study by the American Medical Association disclosed that one in every 15 American male high school seniors uses steroids. Two-thirds of the steroid users began taking the artificial hormones by age 16; 40 percent began at 15 or younger.

All told, as many as half a million young Americans are taking the controversial, muscle-building drug, the use of which discredited and shamed Canadian Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson.

Carling said all professional and amateur athletic teams prohibit the use of the steroids; if athletes test positive for the drugs, they are disqualified from competition.

"The problem is that many young people are being forced, primarily by peers, into use and they don't know the problems associated with the drugs," Carling said.

Such side effects can include: cutting off a child's physical development by briefly accelerating but then shutting off bone growth, reproductive abnormalities, liver damage, sharply increased risk of coronary artery disease and premature heart attacks.

The bill is being endorsed by the Utah Medical Association. Numerous physicians - including urologists - have testified on its behalf.

Dr. George Van Komen, chairman of the UMA's controlled substance committee, said steroids are currently used primarily by urologists in treating the absence or low levels of male hormones.

They are commonly used to treat infertility and impotency in men.

However, Van Komen emphasized that the amount usually prescribed by urologists is a hundred-times less than the amounts athletes are taking.

Use of steroids for specific medical purposes would continue even if the bill passes.

"This bill indicates that anabolic steroids cannot be prescribed, dispensed, administered or injected for the purpose of manipulating human hormonal structure so as to increase muscle mass, strength or weight without medical necessity and without a written prescription from a medical practitioner," Carling said.

The bill, also supported by Drug Free Youth and the State PTA, makes steroids a controlled substance, as opposed to other prescription drugs that are not viewed as being abused by the public.