Cracking Down on Illegal Steroid Use Easier Said Than Done
A recent report by the US General Accounting Office reveals that investigators easily obtained anabolic steroids without a prescription through the Internet. After conducting Internet searches, they found hundreds of Web sites offering anabolic steroids commonly used by athletes and bodybuilders for sale.The investigators then used an e-mail account in a fictitious name to place 22 orders. From these orders, they received 10 shipments of anabolic steroids; all were shipped from foreign countries. They also received 4 shipments from within the United States but the substances they contained, though marketed as anabolic steroids or other "muscle building" products, were not anabolic steroids according to the Food and Drug Administration.
As a result of the investigation, they are referring the evidence concerning the purchases to the Drug Enforcement Administration and to FDA for appropriate action. The officials claim that most anabolic steroids sold illegally in the United States come from abroad, and that the Internet is the most widely used means of buying and selling anabolic steroids illegally. They also reported that, because of the foreign origin of the steroids and the widespread use of the Internet in steroid trafficking, extensive time and resources are usually required to investigate and prosecute steroid cases. The sheer volume of all types of imports from abroad presents significant challenges in efforts to prevent anabolic steroids from illegally entering the United States. In addition, some officials noted the relatively low sentences that result from application of the federal sentencing guidelines to persons convicted of illegal steroid trafficking.
Computers aid steroid distributors in avoiding detection by law enforcement, and penalties are much lighter than for those caught with many other illegal drugs, according to the GAO report. Steroids build muscle but can lead to heart attacks, strokes, cancer, sterility and mood swings. The use of most steroids without a doctor's prescription has been illegal since 1991. Accusations of steroid use among Major League Baseball players ignited congressional and media scrutiny. The GAO report found there are hundreds of websites offering anabolic steroids. The anonymity of the Internet makes dealers difficult to find. "Internet sites can be installed, moved, or removed easily and quickly, making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify, track, monitor, or shut them down," the report said.