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Friday, March 25, 2005

Juice Justice: Penalties for Steroid Use

Why were professional baseball players letting their lawyers run the show at the recent Congressional hearings on steroid abuse? As the WSJ reported:

Turns out the legal penalties for steroid use can be pretty stiff. In 1990 Congress amended the Controlled Substances Act, making the possession or use of anabolic steroids a federal crime. In fact, under federal law steroids are grouped with opium, morphine and amphetamines as "Schedule III" substances. Even first time offenders with a clean record caught with small amounts of steroids for their own use face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you have any prior convictions for drug possession, your sentence can go up to two years. Selling or distributing steroids (even giving them away) is a felony under the Act and can draw up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any prior drug convictions can bump the sentence to 10 years.

States have gotten into the steroid regulation act as well, but the penalties vary greatly. For example, in Alabama simple possession of steroids can put you away for 10 years, while in Alaska steroids aren't even classified as a controlled substance. Adding to the confusion is just what qualifies as a "steroid." Some states classify HGH - human growth hormone - as a steroid while others specifically exclude it. Last year Congress tried to clarify matters by amending the Anabolic Steroid Control Act to make a laundry list of prohormone and prosteroid substances illegal. But, as the government's ongoing investigation into Balco Labs has demonstrated, the capacity to engineer new kinds of steroids is practically infinite.

So why criminalize steriod use at all? Baseball's new steriod policy calls for a 10-day suspension of a player who tests positive for steroids. Compare and contrast that to the 365 days of jail time a first time offender faces under federal law if caught using steroids. Lumping the athletic steroid user into the same category as the heroin or cocaine user seems a little severe. Something is very distorted about the public policies regarding steriod use.

links:
Juice-Head Justice (sub. req.) [WSJ.com, Mar. 25, 2005]
The Anabolic Steroid Control Act: The Wrong Prescription?
Legal Muscle: Anabolics in America [book by Rick Collins]
Controlled Substances Act [wikipedia.org]
Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic) [Nat. Institute of Drug Abuse]
Anabolic steroids [ESPN.com]

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