Doctor says he's careful in prescribing steroids

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A South Carolina doctor accused of writing steroid prescriptions for three players on the Carolina Panthers says he prescribes the drugs only when medically necessary.

Dr. James Shortt, an alternative practitioner under investigation by federal and state officials, said in Wednesday's editions of The Charlotte Observer that he prescribes steroids only in low doses and monitors patients to ensure their steroid levels are within "their upper limit of normal."

"People come to me often because they're worn down, they're exhausted, or something has happened to them and they haven't recovered fully," Shortt said during an interview with the newspaper at his office Tuesday.

"60 Minutes Wednesday" will broadcast a report Wednesday night that claims Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun and center Jeff Mitchell and former offensive lineman Todd Steussie filled testosterone cream prescriptions written by Shortt during the 2003 season, when the played in the Super Bowl.

In addition to the cream, which is banned by the NFL, Sauerbrun -- one of the league's top punters -- also obtained syringes and the injectable steroid Stanozolol, which is also banned by the league.

The Panthers have said they are cooperating with law enforcement and the NFL in their investigation of Shortt's connection to the team.

Terry Cousin, a cornerback with the Panthers in 2003, said on ESPN Radio's GameNight program he saw no signs steroids were being used.

"… There was nothing like that as far as anybody using, I mean there was nothing like that," Cousin said. "…There was nothing that I can remember … Everybody was clean."

Shortt is under criminal investigation for his role in the deaths of two patients to whom he gave controversial hydrogen peroxide infusions. One of those patients also was taking testosterone cream on Shortt's orders.

Shortt said he is careful in his use of steroids.

"There are folks out there, and I think it's lunacy, that are using chemically altered molecules in ridiculous unsafe quantities," he told The Observer. "I have no respect for those people, and I want to tell you right now I am 100 percent opposed to that."

He declined to identify any of his patients, saying only that athletes are "a tiny percent of my overall patient load," no more than 2 percent.

Shortt told the Observer that the steroids he prescribes are generally known as "bio-identical hormones" that are produced outside the body but "by and large, they're identical to what's produced in the body."

He also said he's only recently become aware of banned steroids and other related substances, which he looked up on the Internet after watching TV reports of the congressional hearings on steroids in Major League Baseball. He told the paper he didn't recognize about 90 percent of the substances on the list.

Shortt said he had prescribed Stanozolol, a potent anabolic steroid that is difficult to detect, but stopped after being informed it could be illegal. He declined to specify the circumstances in which he prescribed the drug. The use of Stanozolol caused Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson to be stripped of his gold medal in the 100-meter dash in the 1988 Olympics. Stanozolol could clear the body and be undetectable in urine analysis within seven days, depending on the dosage, Dr. Don Catlin of UCLA's Olympic Analytical Laboratory told the Observer.

Shortt also told the paper he prescribes steroids only for legitimate medical use. "Do I consider healing and repair, and regeneration and recovery, and working at optimal function, a legitimate medical function? Yes."