Federal Prosecutors Use Wikipedia as Source for Steroid Information

Federal prosecutors apparently don’t require the use of scholarly or authoritative sources when discussing the side effects of anabolic steroids. They are perfectly satisfied with citing Wikipedia as proof that steroids are evil. Why take the issue of steroid side effects seriously when cutting and pasting from Wikipedia is so much easier?

What is wrong with using Wikipedia to help justify sending a steroid user to prison? For one thing, the open-source Wikipedia is vulnerable to manipulation by contributors motivated by ideology or bias.

“As an open source that is not subjected to traditional forms of peer review, Wikipedia must be considered only as reliable as the credibility of the footnotes it uses,” according to Maurice Hall, the associate professor of communication and culture at Villanova University. “But I also tell students that the information can be skewed in directions of ideology or other forms of bias, and so that is why it cannot be taken as a final authority.”

A good example of how the government used Wikipedia to help send a steroid user to prison can be seen in the case of the United States of America vs John Isaac Hudelson (Case number 4:12-cr-00064-CVE).

Stephen Greubel, the public defender representing Hudelson, filed a motion to get a reduced sentence for his client. Hudelson was facing 47 to 54 months in prison on two steroid-related charges. Greubel didn’t feel his client deserved to spend over four years in prison for manufacturing steroids for use by himself and his bodybuilding friends.

Greubel argued that anabolic steroids were qualitatively different than other drugs listed on the Controlled Substances list. Steroids were not addictive. And steroids were not used to create an instantaneous, mind-altering effect. Instead, steroids were used as part of a long-term goal-directed behavior aimed at increasing muscle mass and reducing bodyfat.

“[T]he Court should further consider that inclusion of steroids in Schedule III was a contested issue. Steroids do not share the addictive qualities associated with other Schedule III substances – substances such as amphetamine, methamphetamine, codeine, opium, and morphine,” wrote Greubel. “Steroids also are dissimilar to such street or recreational drugs in that they are not taken for an immediate, mind-altering effect, but rather in measured amounts over a substantial period of time so as to gradually increase muscle size and definition…”

The government responded, in part, by demonizing muscle. Whereas steroids may not be addictive, muscularity and the desire for muscle may be addictive. Apparently, that is just as bad as drug addiction.

The government also rejected the argument that steroids are qualitatively different from other Schedule III substances. Danny Williams, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, suggested that steroids are just as dangerous. He “borrowed” heavily from the Wikipedia definition of ‘anabolic steroids’ to support the assertion.

“Steroids may not be addictive, but the result of their use very well may be. Additionally, steroids can have long-term, if not permanent, effects on a user’s physical health. According to wikipedia.com, some of these effects are harmful changes in cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, liver damage (mainly with oral steroids), dangerous changes in the structure of the left ventricle of the heart (such as enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, which impairs its contraction and relaxation, and can lead to hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac death), testicular atrophy, roid rage, damaged immune system, aggression and violence, mania. How these possible side effects are not as harmful as addiction to other Schedule III controlled substances simply makes no sense.”

What makes no sense is how the government can dismiss a very reasonable argument regarding anabolic steroid side effects with a quick cut-and-paste job from Wikipedia when a man’s liberty hangs in the balance.

The italicized portions of the following excerpts from the Wikipedia entry on “anabolic steroid” appear in the United States Attorney’s court documents:

These effects include harmful changes in cholesterol levels (increased low-density lipoprotein and decreased high-density lipoprotein), acne, high blood pressure, liver damage (mainly with oral steroids), dangerous changes in the structure of the left ventricle of the heart

Other side-effects can include alterations in the structure of the heart, such as enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, which impairs its contraction and relaxation. Possible effects of these alterations in the heart are hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, and sudden cardiac death

A 2005 review in CNS Drugs determined that “significant psychiatric symptoms including aggression and violence, mania

For the record, United States District Judge Claire Eagan did grant Hudelson a downward departure in sentencing. Hudelson was sentenced to 37 months in prison instead of 46-57 months.

Anabolic steroids definition in Wikipedia
Anabolic steroids definition in Wikipedia


United States of America vs. John Isaac Hudelson. Defendant’s Motion for Variance or Nonguideline Sentence. (19 September 2012). 4:12-cr-00064-CVE

United States of America vs. John Isaac Hudelson. Government’s Response in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion for Variance or Nonguideline Sentence. (27 September 2012). 4:12-cr-00064-CVE

Anabolic steroid. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroids

Burnsed, B. (June 20, 2011). Wikipedia Gradually Accepted in College Classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/06/20/wikipedia-gradually-accepted-in-college-classrooms

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