The new federal steroid law has been passed! On October 22, 2004, President Bush signed into law the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004, scheduled to take effect 90 days later. The law adds 26 compounds to the existing 1990 list of steroids that are classified as Schedule III controlled substances. Possession of a single andro or other prohormone tablet, for example, will be a federal crime punishable by up to one year in jail; distributing will be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison for a first offense.
The 26 newly added compounds are androstanediol; androstanedione; androstenediol; androstenedione; bolasterone; calusterone; *1-dihydrotestosterone (a.k.a. “1-testosterone”); furazabol; 13b-ethyl-17a-hydroxygon-4-en-3-one; 4-hydroxytestosterone; 4-hydroxy-19-nortestosterone; mestanolone; 17a-methyl-3b,17b-dihydroxy-5a-androstane; 17a-methyl-3a,17b-dihydroxy-5a-androstane; 17a-methyl-3b,17b-dihydroxyandrost-4-ene; 17a-methyl-4-hydroxynandrolone; methyldienolone; methyltrienolone; 17a-methyl-*1-dihydrotestosterone (a.k.a. “17-a-methyl-1-testosterone”); norandrostenediol; norandrostenedione; norbolethone; norclostebol; normethandrolone; stenbolone; and tetrahydrogestrinone. Some of these substances have been marketed as dietary supplements. Others are actually old pharmaceutical steroids that were missed in the original federal law. The law permits the continued sale of DHEA as a dietary supplement.
The law changes the required elements of an anabolic steroid. The “promotes muscle growth” language is now removed from the statute, simplifying the process by which a newly created “designer” steroidal compound may be scheduled by the Attorney General under 21 U.S.C. § 811. No longer must the Attorney General prove that the compound is anabolic. The law also fixes some of the mistakes in the 1990 law (although at least one new typographical error appears). Among other quirks in the new law, the word “isomer” has been removed from the catch-all provision, replaced by “ether.” Instead, the law includes specific isomers of selected compounds.
What can we expect from the new law? The politicians behind it apparently believe that it will curtail steroid use in athletics. While their hopes are well-intentioned, if past experience serves, such hopes seem doubtful. The original 1990 law was pitched to the public as a solution to steroids in sports. However, not only has steroid use by athletes continued, but judging from the unprecedented frenzy over the issue this past year the problem appears much bigger than ever.
Here’s what we can expect: the law will put an end to most legal steroidal dietary supplements, leaving black market steroids as the predominant option. Don’t be surprised if we see a dramatic rise in the use of illegal steroids. In response, expect a newly invigorated anti-steroid enforcement crusade by the DEA. [Even before the President signed the new law, DEA was sounding a war cry. “We are now focused on steroid trafficking and abuse as never before,” warned Michele Leonhart, deputy administrator with DEA, at an October steroids summit in Los Angeles]. Expect individual states to review their own codes in an effort to harmonize their steroid laws with the new federal statute. Once new state laws are enacted, expect state and local police to boost their enforcement efforts against steroid users. As steroid usage is driven further underground, expect the health risks to be compounded as fewer users than ever seek physician monitoring. Finally, expect confusion by consumers and law enforcement authorities alike, because not all prohormone products fall under the new law, nor do all conceivable anabolic steroids.
The backers of this bill say it’s about “values.” But neither the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution says anything at all about preserving the “purity” of athletes’ urine. There were alternative means to protect our teens and to prevent sports doping without criminalizing mature, health-conscious American consumers and bringing the War on (Some) Drugs into health food stores. Freedom of choice and personal liberty are the values this nation was founded upon, and don’t let them tell you otherwise.
Suspected steroid users, most specifically adult bodybuilders, have become prime targets for criminal investigation and arrest. But the many thousands of dollars needed in the course of sending federal agents across the country, of conducting interrogations, of serving subpoenas and summonses, of convening grand juries, and of dragging dozens of hapless bodybuilders to testify before those grand juries is a terribly misguided allocation of our hard-earned — and limited — tax dollars. Gee, shouldn’t the government be dedicating its available resources to finding Osama?”
© 2004, Rick Collins, J.D.