New Bill Gives DEA Ability to Go After Illegal Synthetic Steroids in Supplements

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Many sports supplement companies have been illegally selling synthetic steroids as dietary supplements for several years. This has not been limited to a few bad actors in the industry. The practice has been widespread. Contrary to the popular perception that the supplement industry is “unregulated”, the industry has been tightly regulated by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) for 18 years. DSHEA has explicitly made it illegal for supplement company to sell synthetic steroids as dietary ingredients. So, why have companies been blatantly doing this for almost a decade?

The problem is not a lack of regulation. It is a lack of enforcement. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been in charge of regulating the dietary supplement industry and keeping illegal steroidal ingredients out of products sold in sports nutrition stores.

Of course, the FDA has been very busy in its witch-hunt against celebrity athletes who use steroids. They have spent millions of dollars investigating athletes such as Lance Armstrong rather than protect consumers from illegal ingredients in their supplements.

If the FDA focused on doing their job instead of targeting celebrity athletes, perhaps new legislation would not be need to deal with the problem of illegal synthetic steroids sold as supplements.

The Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2012, co-authored by Orrin Hatch and Sheldon Whitehouse, was proposed in the Senate this week. The Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act amends the Controlled Substances Act to change the legal status of several synthetic steroids to “controlled substances”.

Currently, the synthetic steroids currently sold by some supplement companies are not legally considered anabolic steroids. As such, they are not subject to law enforcement action by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). While the sale of synthetic steroids is already illegal, many politicians have apparently given up on the FDA to competently do its job and enforce DSHEA.

The new amendment would give the DEA, instead of the FDA, the authority to pursue supplement companies that sell synthetic steroids (since the legislation would legally reclassify the steroids as “anabolic steroids”). The penalties for the illegal sale and distribution of anabolic steroids are considerably greater than the penalties for selling misbranded or adulterated drugs.

Twenty-five specific steroids will be added to the controlled substance list. The penalties for the manufacture, sale and/or distributions of these substances will increase up to $2.5 million and up to 10 years in prison.

In addition, the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2012 broadens the definition of “anabolic steroids” to include “other substance(s)” that promote “muscle growth”.

The text of the proposed bill makes it illegal for supplement companies to create hormonal supplements with the “intent of producing a drug or other substance that either promotes muscle growth; or otherwise causes a pharmacological effect similar to that of testosterone; or … marketed or otherwise promoted in any manner suggesting that consuming it will promote muscle growth or any other pharmacological effect similar to that of testosterone”.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) have expressed their support for the proposed amendment. The illegal sale of synthetic steroids by sports nutrition companies has seriously threatened DSHEA. DSHEA is the darling legislation that transformed the industry into a multi-billion cash cow for many companies.

The industry has recognized that the actions of sports nutrition companies have placed the industry in a perilous position. Consequently, they would happily sacrifice the “sports nutrition” segment and its creation and promotion of products that promote muscle growth.


Watson, E. (July 26, 2012). New bill would ensure anabolic steroids are not misrepresented as legitimate dietary supplements, say backers. Retrieved from http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/Regulation/New-bill-would-ensure-anabolic-steroids-are-not-misrepresented-as-legitimate-dietary-supplements-say-backers