American bodybuilders have long been envious of their counterparts in the United Kingdom. British bodybuilders have been able to legally obtain anabolic steroids for personal use under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (“MDA”). As a result British bodybuilders never had to worry about personal possession of steroids as long as they were solely for self-administration. It didn’t matter if they were used to increase muscle mass or to enhance performance. They have been free to buy steroids on the internet from the numerous internet pharmacies without fear of criminal repercussions. Unfortunately, this is all about to change!
The British government has decided to “restrict importation of anabolic steroids for self administration to personal custody” acting upon the recommendations by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (“ACMD”) made this summer.
What does this mean for steroid users in the UK?
Bodybuilders will no longer be able to order steroids over the internet or otherwise legally import them by mail into the country. Fortunately, it will remain legal to possess steroids for personal use; they simply can not be purchased over the internet. Bodybuilders will now be required to personally transport and import steroids into the country.
The United Kingdom Border Agency will be instructed to seize personal use quantities of anabolic steroids and human growth hormone (hGH) arriving via mail.
The second major change to the steroid laws in the United Kingdom involves a change in the requirement that steroids used by bodybuilders come in the form of a “medicinal product”. Previously, this requirement often made it illegal to possess steroids that were manufactured by “underground labs” (UGLs).
The government has decided to amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 in order to remove references to “medicinal products”. This means that UGL steroids will be unambiguously legal to possess for personal use.
What impact will this have on steroid use in the United Kingdom?
The production of anabolic steroids by UGLs within the United Kingdom will likely explode accompanied by a concomitant increase in the use of UGL steroids by British bodybuilders. Bodybuilders will switch from pharmaceutical steroids to lower-quality UGL steroids.
Unfortunately, this seems largely at odds with the efforts at “harm reduction” by the government. The quality control standards of UGLs are generally inferior to those of legitimate pharmaceutical products (that have been legally obtainable over the internet prior to the current pending amendments.)
Here are the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommendations for amending UK steroid laws:
13.4 The ACMD consider that although a small number deaths have been attributed to liver damage associated with steroid use, the health related harms associated with the use of anabolic steroids, are not of the severity of those associated with a number of other Class C drugs e.g. gammahydroxybutyrate, or ketamine –which can be life threatening in overdose, or benzodiazepines which carry dependence liability. For this reason the ACMD continues to believe that it should not be an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 to simply possess anabolic steroids for personal use. Criminal prosecution should be limited to illicit steroid dealers, suppliers, manufacturers and traffickers who profit from this trade. Retaining the lack of a possession offence emphasises the ongoing need to focus on public health. The ACMD concludes that improved tailored intervention and education messages aimed at anabolic steroid users would be more effective than criminalising users and further pushing the issue underground
Restrict the method of importation to personal custody
13.5 The current legal framework permits imports (or exports) of steroids for self-administration. There is no requirement that the drugs have to be personally transported/ imported. This can pose problems where steroids are imported via post or courier (i.e. items are unattended in transit). Border force officials can be unable, in these circumstances, to determine whether the products are for personal use as they are unable to question the importer at point of entry and may not necessarily be able to identify the importer from the import declaration. To establish whether imported items are for personal use will necessarily involve a potentially costly investigation by UK Border Force officials as to the circumstances in which the drugs are being imported.
13.6 Further restriction should, after consideration in the context of the EU legislation, be placed on the importation, and exportation, exemption, namely personal custody on importation.
13.7 Anabolic steroids are currently freely available for on-line ordering by various web sites. There is no restriction on these and little or no quality control. Imposition of a personal custody requirement for importation would make such purchases illegal.
Here is the UK Government’s response to the recommendations by the ACMD:
Response to recommendations 1-4:
The Government accepts these recommendations. We will maintain the current classification (and exemption from the offence of possession) of anabolic steroids as Class C under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 based on the ACMD’s assessment of the latest available evidence. We will keep the list of steroids under review with reference to the World Anti-doping Agency Prohibited List as we approach London 2012 Olympics. The Government is committed to ensuring the legislative framework is clear, fit for purpose and supports enforcement partners. We therefore intend to amend the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 to remove the reference to ‘medicinal product’ and restrict importation of anabolic steroids for self administration to personal custody. This will enable UKBA officials to seize imports of anabolic steroids through the post and via courier at the point of entry.
Subsequent to the ACMD’s letter of 26 July which advised that the ACMD’s legislative recommendations on anabolic steroids apply equally to human growth hormones, the legislative changes to remove the reference to ‘medicinal product’ and to restrict importation to personal custody will apply to all drugs in Schedule 4 Part II of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.