Legislation limiting sales of steroid precursors such as androstenedione, a substance baseball slugger Mark McGwire (search) used in his record-breaking home run year, won approval Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

The measure would ban over-the-counter sales of precursors, which act like steroids in the human body. The Food and Drug Administration (search) said earlier this month it would ban all sales of androstenedione.

"Since steroids were banned under the Control Act of 1990 (search), many new substances have been developed that have essentially the same effect on the body as anabolic steroids," said the bill's sponsor and committee chairman, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.

The bill also would double the penalties for manufacturing or distributing anabolic steroids (search) at or near a sports facility, prompting the only real debate at Wednesday's meeting.

Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., questioned the rationale for that provision. "My concern is that we can do things rationally, or we can do things kind of based on sound bite," he said.

"This is a twofer," Sensenbrenner responded to laughter. "It's a rational sound bite." He said that while the provision allows for doubling of penalties, it does not mandate it.

The committee approved the bill on voice vote, sending it to the House floor.

Similar legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., is pending in the Senate.

Congress has taken an increased interest in the issue this year in the wake of reports of steroid use among athletes, particularly professional baseball players. A federal grand jury in San Francisco has indicted four men on charges of illegally distributing steroids, including the personal trainer of Barry Bonds.

At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing March 10, panel chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., warned the baseball players union he would look for "legislative remedies" if baseball did not adopt a stronger testing policy.

Since then, Commissioner Bud Selig (search) has asked the union to renegotiate a tough steroids policy, and union chief Donald Fehr has left open the possibility of doing that before the players' collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2006.