On January 20th, 2005, the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 took effect. Ratified by the U.S. Congress in October 2004, the law expands the federal steroid law that had been passed in 1990. The new law also provides $15 million for educational programs for children about the dangers of anabolic steroids, and directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to consider revising federal guidelines to increase the penalties for steroid possession and distribution.
The law adds 26 new steroid compounds to the previous list of substances that are legally defined as “anabolic steroids” and classified as Schedule III controlled substances. Mere unlawful possession of any of these products will be a basis for arrest and prosecution as a federal drug criminal. The new 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 new substances have been widely marketed as dietary supplements, such as androstenedione, norandrostenedione, norandrostenediol, 1-testosterone, and 4-hydroxytestosterone. Others, such as bolasterone, calusterone, furazabol, and stenbolone, are actually very old pharmaceutical steroids that were missed in the original federal law (note, however, that some states, among them California, did include some of these compounds in their own steroid laws. These dusty old compounds were likely included after the highly publicized reemergence of norbolethone (also added to the list) in an Olympic urine sample.
The law also changes the general requisite elements of an anabolic steroid. The “promotes muscle growth” language that precedes the list of compounds is now removed from the statute. Strangely, an anabolic steroid, under the new law, need not be anabolic. It simply needs to be chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone, and either on the new list of substances, or any salt, ester, or ether of a substance on the list. The omission of the criterion of promoting muscle growth profoundly impacts the process by which a newly created “designer” steroidal compound may be scheduled. Even under the 1990 law, the Attorney General had the authority under 21 U.S.C. § 811 to schedule additional or newly discovered steroidal compounds without going back to Congress for approval. However, under the old law, in order for a compound to qualify as an anabolic steroid, the Attorney General was required to prove that the compound had anabolic properties. Under the new law, this is no longer a requirement, making the process much simpler. Rather, the Attorney General must only establish that the compound is chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone. Litigation may be required to explore what “pharmacologically related” means with respect to steroidal compounds.
After a protracted battle on the issue among members of Congress, the law permits the continued sale of DHEA as a dietary supplement by adding it to the list of other excluded hormonal substances (estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids). The law also fixes some of the mistakes and poor draftsmanship of the 1990 law that I pointed out in the original Legal Muscle. Compounds that had been erroneously listed twice, under alternate names, are now listed only once (reducing by correction the original list of 27 compounds to 23). Gone are methandrostenolone (now listed only as methandienone), stanolone (now listed only as 4-dihydrotestosterone), chlorotestosterone (now listed only as clostebol), and methandranone (a substance that does not appear in the Merck Index and may have been a typographical mistake). Also, the misspelling of formebolone as “formebulone” has been corrected. For further clarity, the new law provides the chemical names of all the compounds, even listing specific isomers of certain substances. However, at least one typographical error was apparent during an initial review by independent chemists: 13b-ethyl-17a-hydroxygon-4-en-3-one (a de-methylated version of norbolethone) should read as 13b-ethyl-17b-hydroxygon-4-en-3-one.
The new law retains the “catch-all” provision of the 1990 law concerning certain variations of the listed compounds. The definition of an anabolic steroid under the old law included, under subparagraph (xxviii), “any salt, ester, or isomer of a drug or substance described or listed in this paragraph, if that salt ester, or isomer promotes muscle growth.” The new law says, “any salt, ester, or ether of a drug or substance described in this paragraph.” Note that the reference to muscle growth in the old law has been omitted [from what is now, in the longer list, subparagraph (xlx) of the new law], and that the word “isomer” has been replaced by “ether.” The new law includes specific isomers of a compound under that compound’s heading.
Now, let’s go to the bottom line. 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.
What the law will do is put an end to most (although not all, at this point) legal steroidal dietary supplements, leaving black market steroids as the remaining option. While increased penalties for steroid possession will deter some, others will flock to the black market. Don’t be surprised if we see a dramatic rise in the use of illegal steroids. If the penalties are the same for steroid precursors and real pharmaceutical steroids, those willing to break the law will likely gravitate to the stronger products. Prohibition always has a cost.
As usage is driven further underground, expect the health concerns to be compounded. The available products will be primarily Third World veterinary steroids and new products from underground American labs. Expect questionable purity to be a bigger problem than ever. Expect fewer steroid users than ever to seek physician monitoring or dosage review.
You can also expect to see a revision in the way that steroids are quantified under the federal sentencing guidelines. There may be a reevaluation of the way dosage units are quantified, or a reduction in quantity thresholds for the various offense levels. And don’t be surprised if we see a newly invigorated anti-steroid enforcement crusade by the DEA once the sentencing guidelines are amended. 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,” said Michele Leonhart, deputy administrator with DEA, at a steroids summit in Los Angeles.
Also, expect individual states to review their own statutes and codes in an effort to harmonize their steroid laws with the new federal statute. Right now, state laws are quite a hodgepodge. The new federal law may inspire efforts at uniformity in many jurisdictions (I have already been contacted by representatives of the state legislature of one state regarding this issue). Once new state laws are enacted, expect state troopers and local police to ramp up their enforcement efforts against steroid users.
Finally, expect a great deal of consumer confusion. Not all prohormone products fall under the new law, nor do all conceivable anabolic steroids. How will law enforcement officers make determinations as to which products remain legal and which don’t? What will be the duration of the learning curve for prosecutors, attorneys and judges? And how are consumers to know whether the few remaining tablets in the bottle of prohormones they bought in a local health food store last summer can get them arrested under the new law? Chemical nomenclature is the only way that some of the newly listed substances are represented. You’d benefit from a chemistry degree to figure it out.
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Rick Collins, J.D., is a veteran lawyer and bodybuilder. He is the founder of www.SteroidLaw.com and the author of the groundbreaking blockbuster LEGAL MUSCLE: Anabolics in America, available at www.teamlegalmuscle.com.[© 2005 by Rick Collins, J.D., and
Legal Muscle Publishing, Inc.