The Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act, introduced Tuesday, seeks to close a loophole exploited by steroid sellers who spike bodybuilding supplements with chemically tweaked compounds.
Cracking down on muscle-building dietary supplements spiked with chemical-cousins of anabolic steroids would be easier under legislation introduced in Congress on Tuesday.
The Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act would make it easier to classify harmful products as controlled substances and increase criminal penalties for importing, manufacturing or distributing them under false labels. The bill seeks to close a loophole in existing law that steroid sellers exploit by slightly tweaking chemical compounds so that the resulting product is not among those on the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of controlled substances.
The bill targets bodybuilding products, often marketed as dietary supplements, that can be found in stores and on the Internet claiming to be all-natural muscle-builders when they actually contain chemically altered versions of anabolic steroids.
"This bill would help prevent the sale of falsely labeled steroids and punish those who seek to profit from them," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a co-sponsor of the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Whitehouse added that "many American citizens may be unknowingly dosing themselves with these harmful substances."
If enacted, the bill would add 27 known anabolic steroids to the DEA's list of controlled substances — helping to bring it up-to-date. It would also give the DEA the authority, as it identifies new designer steroids similar to those already on its list, to quickly add them temporarily, allowing action until the compound is permanently added to the list.
"The DEA needs to be able to act faster and have better enforcement tools to prosecute those that develop and falsely market anabolic steroids as safe products," Hatch said.
The legislation, similar to a bill introduced in 2012, was praised by officials in the dietary supplement industry and at organizations that enforce rules against performance-enhancing substances in sports.
"This goes directly toward stopping the manufacturing of these products," said Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which oversees testing of Olympians and other athletes. "We think it is the best solution that we've been able to come up with to stop the ease by which designer anabolic steroids are coming to market."
Five major dietary supplement industry associations, including the United Natural Products Alliance and the Council for Responsible Nutrition, announced their support for the bill Tuesday. Steve Mister, the council's president, said one of the most important tools in the legislation is it gives the DEA the ability to list a chemical compound as a controlled substance if it's chemically similar to one already on the list and if the manufacturer is marketing it for a steroid-like effect.
"We think that's important, because we see these ingredients pop up and the DEA can't keep up with them," Mister said.
Tygart notes that the bill doesn't address the growing problem of designer stimulants, including amphetamine-like and methamphetamine-like compounds, that have been detected over the past year in several mainstream sports supplements. USA TODAY has reported on tests finding the compounds in a popular pre-workout powder called Craze, as well as other products.
"That's obviously an area ripe for rogue manufacturers," Tygart said, adding that the issue is a bit more complex than addressing anabolic steroids. "We are continuing to work both with industry and the Hill on that front. It's equally alarming and concerning to us."