Latest Steroid Horror Stories

Q:  Your book “Legal Muscle” was filled with cases where people’s lives were turned upside down by steroid charges or arrests.  What’s the latest?   

A:  Where there’s crime, there’s punishment.  But what’s a fair and sensible punishment?  Justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  Having been a prosecutor and now having been a defense lawyer for over 20 years, I’d like to think I have a sensible handle on justice in a world that’s not always fair.

Take, for example, a recent case in Missouri.  The defendant was convicted of charges related to steroid trafficking.  The facts, including $400,000 in revenues he and his co-defendant obtained through their conspiracy, were similar to many other cases I’ve handled which resulted in sentences in the 3 to 4 year range … or less. Unlike many steroid defendants, he did have prior convictions – all for alcohol-related driving offenses (he had a history of depression and alcoholism) but nothing involving drug crimes, theft, or violence.  He also had a father suffering from late stage lung cancer.  He agreed to punishment including the forfeiture of cash and his two cars, and he did anticipate a prison sentence.  But on the day of sentence the judge hammered him with a whopping 92 months in prison and, more troublingly, she refused to permit him the somewhat customary courtesy of “self-surrender” to the Bureau of Prisons on a date several weeks post-sentence.  He had no history of flight on prior cases, and begged to be allowed to be at his father’s death bed before serving his time.  Unmoved, she imposed sentence and immediately remanded him into custody.  He never again saw his father, who died 6 days later on Christmas Eve.  I understand that the public seems to favor “tough” judges, but putting on a black robe should never mean casting off a basic sense of humanity.

But when it comes to steroids, America doesn’t have a monopoly on wacky rulings.  Some European countries are cracking down on “doping” and bodybuilders.  As I reported two years ago, Sweden is “muscle profiling” jacked-looking people – arresting them on “suspicion of doping” to force them to submit to urine tests. If they test positive for juice, they’re charged with doping as a crime. One pro bodybuilder from the U.S. was taken into custody at an autograph signing just for looking huge.

This nonsense is spreading.  A recent report out of Belgium shows how far.  Boris, an educated young man in his late 20’s entered his first bodybuilding contest and was selected by the officials as one of 10 out of 70 competitors to submit to urine testing. A month later, he was advised he tested positive in a letter from the Department of “Culture, Youth, Sports and Media.” Then a couple of days later there was a knock on his door. It was the police with a warrant to search his house for steroids and, unfoundedly, “narcotics.”  Two separate investigations were launched – one by the police (still open) and one by the anti-doping authorities which was resolved by a heavy fine of 3,350 euros and … a four-year ban on setting foot in a gym.  Yes, you read that right!  One of Belgium’s punishments for doping offenses is designed to prevent people from working out!  Given that exercise is universally regarded as a healthful human activity with tremendous physical and psychological benefits, the punishment is idiotic.  But there’s one more part of the equation that’s even crazier: the doping authorities claim jurisdiction over each and every gym member, not just the ones that compete!  That means that they have the right to raid any gym, accompanied by police agents, and force anyone they choose to pee in a cup.  Anyone who fails is treated as a cheating athlete, may be charged by both doping officials and the police, and is forbidden from entering a gym.  And the raids have already begun, with the police searching locker rooms, gym bags and vehicles of the members![1] And the fact that here in America the anti-doping authorities are working more closely with law enforcement could make anyone who values freedom uncomfortable.

Rick Collins, JD, CSCS [www.rickcollins.com] is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation.  [© Rick Collins, 2013.  All rights reserved.  For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice.  Adapted from a column in Muscular Development magazine.]

[1] http://www.hln.be/hln/nl/5356/Doping-in-sport/article/detail/1416751/2012/03/30/Een-sporter-betrapt-bij-dopingcontrole-van-4-fitnesscentra.dhtml (use Google translate, from Dutch).