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Anabolic Steroids: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
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Anabolic Steroids: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You - 04-25-2005, 04:08 AM

You've probably heard plenty of horror stories about the medical dangers associated with the unsupervised abuse of black market anabolic steroids. Steroids, like most drugs, can have serious side effects if abused. But if that doesn't have a chilling effect on your casual curiosity to see what these synthetic male hormones might do to enhance your physique or performance, try this: you just might wind up in a pair of very tight-fitting, linked metal bracelets hearing a bailiff call, "Will the Defendant please rise!" Non-medical steroid use can have devastating legal consequences in America, and few people are familiar with the laws that apply. Take it from me, a lawyer who has seen the situation from the front lines: if the thought of using steroids has ever crossed your mind, what you don't know can hurt you � badly.

A Bit of History

There once was a time when anabolic steroids were medications that required a physician's prescription in the U.S., but were not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (the federal law that criminalizes traditional drugs of abuse such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana). But in the mid 1980's, media reports of the increasing use of steroids in sports, including a "silent epidemic" of high school steroid abuse, came to the attention of Capitol Hill. Between 1988 and 1990, Congress held hearings to determine whether the Controlled Substances Act should be amended to include anabolic steroids. The end result was the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, a new law that classified steroids as Schedule III controlled substances, effectively criminalizing their non-medical use by anyone seeking muscle growth for athletic or cosmetic purposes. The statute applies in federal courts across the nation, and puts steroids in the same legal class as barbiturates, ketamine, LSD precursors, and narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin. It makes the possession of anabolic steroids without a prescription a federal offense, regardless of the quantity.

Black Market Buying

Buying steroids in the "traditional" fashion from the local dealer's gym bag or car trunk is risky business for reasons beyond health concerns. There are plenty of ways by which a personal user can get caught red-handed while acquiring or transporting the steroids. If the steroids are picked up locally and then driven back by car to the buyer's home, any contact with law enforcement authorities while en route can yield nasty results for the buyer. A simple traffic law violation or an auto accident - even if it's not your fault -- can lead to a vehicle inspection and search by the police. Granted, the odds may favor an uneventful trip home, but believe me, ironic twists of fate have been known to happen. I've seen it firsthand in courts across the nation. In a recent case in Staten Island, New York, the police stumbled upon four thousand Anabol (methandrostenolone, a.k.a. "d-bol" from Thailand) tabs in a gym bag in the back seat of a car after the driver was stopped at a roadblock check for suspended licenses.

Taking a trip South o' the Border has its own problems. U.S. Customs has wide latitude in conducting border searches. The consequences when Customs finds your stash can vary greatly. Some relatively lucky individuals caught with steroids have had their contraband confiscated, but were not arrested. Others got by with paying fines in local courts. Some have been hit with astronomical penalties, such as the $72,784 initially assessed against a graduate student for bringing 34 bottles of steroids and some non-controlled pills back from Mexico. The least fortunate were arrested and prosecuted, and there is little uniformity in the venue or charges. In one recent case I handled at the Canadian border, the client was arrested upon reentry with one hundred tablets alleged to be oral steroids. Ambivalent federal authorities dumped the case into state court, where it was charged as a felony. A different client of mine was entering western Texas from Mexico with less than 50 dosage units of steroids and was charged with both felony importation and misdemeanor possession in federal court. But in a nearly identical case in the same court in Texas, a different client was initially charged only with a federal misdemeanor, and not with the felony importation count.

Even getting the contraband safely home doesn't guarantee you're "home-free." Here's an example of how a search of a residence can arise out of totally unrelated circumstances: the suspect was being investigated for certain illegal credit card activities having nothing to do with steroids. The police, searching his trash container for proof of these credit card crimes, stumbled upon evidence of anabolic steroid use, which ultimately led to a search of his house and his arrest for possessing anabolic steroids with the intent to distribute them. Also, I've personally been involved with several steroid cases that arose when a steroid user's own family discovered a stash of syringes and steroids hidden in the home, panicked, and called the police. The result was an arrest and lengthy court case.

Steroids and the Internet

Buying over the Internet black market from one of the many illegal overseas sources is the fastest-growing way that I see people getting arrested for steroids. Importing controlled substances is a federal crime and the U.S. Customs Mail Division, which oversees international packages, is authorized to open and inspect suspicious parcels. Packages can arouse suspicion based upon factors such as look, feel, origin or destination. If the inspectors discover a package containing steroids, they can hold or "seize" the package and may then exercise one of two significant options: either send a "seizure letter" or attempt a "controlled delivery." The seizure letter notifies the designated recipient that the package is being held by Customs, and offers the chance to challenge the seizure by showing a lawful right to the steroids. Of course, responding without a valid basis for getting the steroids, such as a valid medical prescription, is potentially inviting an arrest. Even if the designated recipient doesn't respond, his name and address may be recorded for future reference. The Government maintains a computerized data system including addresses known to be connected with steroids based upon prior shipment seizures, and it will intercept parcels bearing these origin or destination addresses.

The controlled delivery option involves the attempted delivery of the parcel to the designated recipient by an undercover agent posing as a courier or letter carrier, accompanied by a hidden back-up team. If the package is accepted, the team will move in to arrest the recipient. They will usually be armed with a search warrant authorizing the search of the entire residence (and often the car, too) once the package is accepted. The agents will exert tremendous pressure and apply a variety of interrogation tactics on the person who accepted the package to give a full confession. I have seen numerous cases where the suspect's admissions of wrongdoing were used very effectively against him in court. Waiving the privilege against self-incrimination and the right to a lawyer can sometimes provide a basis for an arrest where one didn't previously exist!

Facing the Music: Crime and Punishment

Under the federal law and most state laws, it is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess an anabolic steroid unless it was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a physician while acting in the course of his professional practice. (Getting steroids from a physician for muscle development is outside the course of the physician's professional practice, and a doctor in Pennsylvania was recently accused of a variety of charges including "reckless endangerment" for administering steroids for this purpose. The standard is generally, "treatment of a medical condition.") For the personal user, a simple possession conviction is punishable under federal law by a term of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a minimum fine of $1,000. A person with previous convictions for certain offenses, including any drug or narcotic crimes, must get a period of imprisonment and a minimum fine of $2,500. Of course, penalties for distributing steroids are significantly higher - up to a maximum of five years in prison for first offenders.

Each state is free to draft its own laws about how to deal with unlawful steroid possessors. Let's take the typical first-time unlawful possession of a small quantity of steroids for personal use. In Connecticut, it's a misdemeanor with, at worst, up to a year in jail unless it occurs near a school, in which case there's additional imprisonment. In Arizona it's technically a felony, but under a new law eligible offenders get probation with drug treatment in lieu of prison. In Colorado, a bizarre distinction makes "using" juice a misdemeanor but "possessing" it a felony. In Florida and Georgia, simple possession of any amount is a felony with up to five years imprisonment, and in Alabama it's a felony with up to ten years in prison! In Louisiana, you can face imprisonment with hard labor for a first offense of mere personal use possession! We're talking about maximum, not typical, sentences here. Alternatively, many states have mechanisms favoring rehabilitation or supervision for first-time offenders, such as withheld judgments, suspended sentences, interim probation before judgment (PBJ), or pretrial diversion. On the other hand, you can expect higher potential punishments where there are aggravating factors such as large quantities or evidence of intent to distribute. [LEGAL MUSCLE, available through www.teamlegalmuscle.com and www.amazon.com, states and explains the steroid laws and sentencing options for all fifty states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.]

Of course, a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and every arrest does not result in a conviction. But just the mere experience of being arrested - the indignity of being handcuffed, fingerprinted, and arraigned before a judge in open court - is exceedingly unpleasant and embarrassing. Spending at least one night in jail is likely, often with some quite unsavory characters. Things get even worse in a small town or in a publicized case. Local papers can splash names and arrest photos across their pages, and local television stations can show unflattering footage on the evening news. Friends and neighbors may change their opinions to view a steroid user as a "cheater" who took shortcuts to building a physique. Then there are the costs of posting bail, hiring a lawyer, and going back and forth to court, often many times. The police or agents, prosecutor, and judge are rarely knowledgeable about steroids. Sadly, the defense lawyer is typically equally clueless on the topic, and unable to effectively rebut important aspects of the prosecution's case or to raise crucial defenses. And if the arrest does result in a criminal conviction, there is a possibility of jail time or supervised probation, depending upon the background of the accused, the forum in which the case is brought, the quantity of steroids involved and numerous other factors.

Importantly, jail time is not the only potential adverse consequence of possessing steroids without a prescription. The effect of a drug conviction (such as possession of steroids) may prevent or interfere with future employment opportunities in many fields, including but not limited to law enforcement. Other effects can include mandatory driver's license suspension (a personal nightmare for those who live in rural and suburban areas) and ineligibility to own or possess a firearm in many states. Members of certain professions requiring licensing (architects, auctioneers, barbers, cosmetologists, dentists, lawyers, licensed counselors, nurses, pharmacists, physicians, public accountants, and teachers, just to name a few) can expect a conviction to be reported to their state licensing authority, placing their current job or career in jeopardy. Students can expect to be in jeopardy of losing their financial aid. The Denial of Federal Benefits Program provides federal and state courts with the ability to deny all or selected federal benefits to individuals convicted of drug trafficking or drug possession. Lastly, for those who are not American citizens, immigration problems and the possibility of deportation can arise. So for non-citizens, a steroid arrest can get you kicked out of the country!

Looking Ahead to the Future

The laws regarding steroids may be changing soon. A new bill has been proposed called the "Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2003." The bill would expand the current list of 27 illegal compounds to a total of over 50 compounds and their expressly named isomers, plus all their salts, esters and ethers. Among the many new additions to the list are substances currently marketed as sports supplements, such as androstenediol, norandrostenediol, norandrostenedione, 1-testosterone, and 4-hydroxytestosterone. Androstenedione, while listed, gets a temporary reprieve until the FDA issues a formal finding on its status as a supplement, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is exempted in the bill's current version. Also included are norbolethone and tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), non-commercial compounds that recently generated intense media attention in the athletic doping context. Further, the bill omits the need for the government to actually prove that any of the compounds that would now be called anabolic steroids are actually anabolic. And most importantly, it would direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to consider raising the punishments for all steroid offenses. If the bill is passed, the likely result will be that tomorrow's penalties - including prison terms - for possession of either steroids or prohormones will be significantly higher than today's penalties for possession of traditional anabolic steroids! The heightened penalties would provide greater incentive for the Government to focus more attention on making steroid investigations and arrests. It's also likely that state laws will be amended to conform to the new federal schedule.

Conclusion

It may be tempting for some hardcore trainers to try a conservative cycle of anabolic steroids, especially as they mature and natural gains may begin to slow down. Is it worth the risk? I can tell you from personal experience in the trenches of our courts that the current legal risks are quite real � and most often outweigh the benefits for anyone who does get caught.

1 Rick Collins, Esq., is a lawyer and former prosecutor who represents and advises clients in the bodybuilding, fitness, and sports nutrition communities. Through his law firm, Collins, McDonald & Gann, P.C. [www.cmgesq.com], he has represented or consulted with countless individuals, businesses and other entities regarding legal issues related to performance enhancing drugs and supplements, and he is the author of the book, LEGAL MUSCLE. He serves as a legal advisor to the IFBB, and is also a former competitive bodybuilder and certified personal trainer. [This article is intended to be for informational purposes only, and is not to be construed as legal advice.]





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04-25-2005, 07:47 AM

Kinda scary. I really need to start making my own meds soon.


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04-25-2005, 09:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by imdaman1
Kinda scary. I really need to start making my own meds soon.

Wow! Yeah. sounds like home brewing is the safest thing. But you must then deal with the potential for fucking your self up if you don't prepare and sterilize the gear properly.


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04-25-2005, 09:43 AM

It basically boils down to: If they want to get you, they will. All this shit is brought to you courtesy of dirty politics....what shit. :fawk2:
   
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