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Gov. Vows to Battle Steroid Use

Times Staff Writer

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearing at the bodybuilding exhibition that goes by his name, conceded Saturday that he has not done enough to rid the sport of illegal steroids and said muscle magazines should promote a stronger anti-drug message.

Schwarzenegger said he wanted to convene a “summit” meeting of the people who run the sport that made him famous, to devise ways to purge illegal drugs from the bodybuilding culture.

Possible remedies, Schwarzenegger said, include random testing immediately before contests and changing the way they are scored. By emphasizing form and posing rather than bulk, judges would give competitors less incentive to take steroids, Schwarzenegger said.

“I have done a lot and obviously I have to do more.... " to discourage use of the drugs, Schwarzenegger said in an interview with reporters at the Arnold Fitness Weekend, the annual exhibition that he co-founded in 1989.

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Schwarzenegger also spoke in the half-hour interview about his hope for a compromise on his policy agenda now stalled in the Legislature.

With drug use in sports a national focus, the governor is facing increasing pressure to use his unique platform as a political leader and former champion bodybuilder to denounce steroids. Schwarzenegger used steroids when he competed and retains strong ties to the sport.

In his spare time, the governor is executive editor of two magazines, Flex and Muscle & Fitness, which celebrate elite bodybuilders. And he has a financial stake in the fitness exhibition, whose centerpiece is the men’s bodybuilding competition.

“The other area where we can be doing much better is to just go and have in the magazines always anti-drug messages,” he said. " ... I’m going to make sure our sport and our magazines will do their share to fight it.”

Schwarzenegger’s office has portrayed him as a staunch opponent of steroids, circulating letters he wrote in the 1990s urging bodybuilding officials to banish drugs.

Before handing out awards Saturday night in the men’s bodybuilding contest, he said, “We have to do even more to get rid of drugs from our sport once and for all.” The audience applauded briefly.

In the interview, Schwarzenegger also spoke about his efforts to usher in major changes in California’s budgetary and political practices. Though he is preparing for a special election in the fall, Schwarzenegger said he was still committed to reaching a compromise with the Legislature that would make an election unnecessary.

The governor wants to restrain state spending, redraw congressional and legislative districts, adopt a 401(k)-style state retirement system and introduce merit pay for teachers.

He described his plan, first announced in his state-of-the-state speech in January, as a form of “shock treatment.”

If lawmakers defy him, Schwarzenegger said, he would take his agenda to the voters in a special election. But he said that’s not what the public wants.

“I do look for bipartisan solutions, no matter what anyone says -- simply because the people really prefer when legislators solve problems in the Capitol,” he said. “It makes them feel good.”

Schwarzenegger said he was committed to a plan that would strip lawmakers of the power to carve voting districts, instead giving the job to a panel of retired judges. The idea is that judges would craft more competitive districts because they would not be preoccupied with partisan election concerns.

“I know for sure the legislators will never be involved,” he said. “We don’t want to screw it up again. ... It won’t happen.”

But the bill that Schwarzenegger has endorsed does provide the Legislature a role.

Under amendments to the bill by Assembly Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, the four leaders of the Assembly and Senate each could veto one judge in a pool of 25 candidates to draw the districts. Also, the Assembly clerk would be the one who randomly selects the five judges from that list.

Though he is surrounded by chiseled admirers here, Schwarzenegger has gotten a few unpleasant reminders of home. Nurses have been staging demonstrations at Schwarzenegger’s public appearances up and down California, and a few followed him here, joining colleagues in a protest outside the bodybuilding event.

Nurses won a major fight with the governor last week when a Sacramento judge ruled that Schwarzenegger illegally suspended a law requiring more nurses in hospitals.

Victory in hand, nurses took out a full-page ad in Saturday’s Columbus Dispatch newspaper denouncing Schwarzenegger’s aggressive fundraising methods.

“It’s cash register politics on steroids,” the ad read.

Schwarzenegger said he wasn’t fazed.

He looked at the picture of himself grimacing in the ad and said, “It’s a handsome picture of me. Very nice.”

He called the demonstrations “sideshows” but thanked nurses who “saved my butt” when he was ill.

Malinda Markowitz, secretary of the California Nurses Assn., who joined the protest here, said, “I guess he would know sideshows because he’s running California like a circus.”

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Times staff writer Robert Salladay contributed to this report.


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