Cocaine, heroin and marijuana trafficking having been a top priority target for American law enforcement, anabolic steroid investigations and prosecutions have only accounted for a small proportion of the “War on Drugs” efforts. While it is often thought that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and federal prosecutors simply couldn’t give a rat’s ass about steroids, that’s not quite true. Rather, they may feel that the current United States Sentencing Guidelines are just too lenient on steroids to justify much of their effort. The guidelines, which generally must be followed by federal judges at sentencing, set forth the potential range of time in prison for each criminal “offense level.” In drug cases, the offense level is determined by the quantity or “units” of drugs involved.
The frustrations of federal law enforcement were expressed in June of 1995 when the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control held a “Conference on the Impact of National Steroid Control Legislation.” Presenting their observations since enactment of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, they bemoaned that the guidelines hampered their ability to fight trafficking. Urging that convicted steroid offenders be subject to longer imprisonment, they called for amendments “so that steroids are treated as seriously as any other Schedule III drug.”
Particularly troublesome to the agents and prosecutors was the so-called “steroid discount” set forth in guidelines section 2D1.1 (Note G of the Drug Quantity Table). Under the guidelines, one “unit” of anabolic steroids means one 10 cc vial of an injectable steroid or fifty oral tablets. All vials of injectable steroids are to be converted on the basis of their volume to the equivalent number of 10 cc vials (e.g., one 50 cc vial is to be counted as five 10 cc vials). One practical effect of the steroid discount is to permit some offenders with substantial quantities to avoid major prison time. Another effect is that when federal authorities do make a steroid bust, they often dump the case into state court where the laws vary and the discount doesn’t apply. This happens a lot in mail seizure cases.
Despite the DEA conference, the steroid discount remains in effect in federal courts. While in some cases it may be overly generous in real world terms — few if any juicers, for example, would wolf down fifty Anadrol-50 tablets at a sitting — the discount represents an attempt by the Sentencing Commission to treat steroid offenders differently than other drug offenders. It could even be interpreted as recognizing that non-medical steroid use, especially for bodybuilding, typically involves substantial quantities.
“INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE” IN STATE COURTS
In state courts, a crucial quantity-related issue is whether the offender was a user or a dealer. It¡¦s quite common to see the prosecution of somebody as a steroid dealer based merely on the quantity recovered from a search of his home or car, and without any other evidence that he was dealing. Unfortunately for the accused — for whom being hit with a ¡§possession with intent to sell¡¨ charge means facing significantly harsher penalties — the inference is sometimes totally unwarranted. The problem arises because of the extensive experience state and local law enforcement authorities have with ¡§street drugs¡¨ cases, where even fifteen individually packaged units of product (such as glassines of cocaine or heroin) constitutes probable cause of an intent to sell. But unlike narcotics users who tend to purchase and possess only enough to get an immediate ¡§high,¡¨ most anabolic steroid users purchase their gear with significant planning. Fearful of the consequences of running short of steroids mid-cycle, many users are ¡§pack rats¡¨ who stockpile enough to complete a cycle or series of cycles lasting weeks or months. Since steroid cycles typically involve the stacking of different oral and injectable preparations of varying androgenic-to-anabolic ratios, it¡¦s not surprising that unenlightened law officers can view a serious personal user¡¦s home as a major distribution warehouse!
The ¡§intent to sell¡¨ problem is particularly prevalent in cases involving low dosage oral tablets, such as Anabol (methandrostenolone) from Thailand. One of these little pink pentagons provides only five milligrams of anabolic steroids. By comparison, a single Anadrol-50„µ tablet provides fifty milligrams — ten times that amount. Guys who might take just one Anadrol-50„µ tablet a day would need ten Anabol tablets daily to get the same dosage. (Although long-term, high-dose self-administration of C-17 oral steroids like methandrostenolone can be seriously toxic to the liver, these dosages are not uncommon.) Postulating a ten-week cycle, a total of seven hundred tablets would be required. A guy in New York was recently charged with intent to sell for possessing less than four hundred tablets in his car. In a California case, prosecutors insisted that receiving a package of one thousand Anabol tablets by mail from Thailand proved an intent to sell, despite the reality that one thousand tabs is the minimum quantity that could be ordered from that overseas source!
The unique issues related to quantity are but one of many ways that anabolic steroid cases are different from “typical” drug cases. Lawyers representing aesthetic steroid users and strength athletes should be fully educated and prepared. Personally, I vehemently disagree with our national steroid laws based upon overwhelming evidence that they’ve failed miserably. There are far better ways to address the problems of black market trafficking, teen steroid abuse, and doping in elite amateur and professional sports. But like it or not, our present steroid laws are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
© 2003 by Rick Collins. All rights reserved
This article is intended to be for informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal advice, and not to advocate the non-medical use of steroids.