Anabolic Steroids Are Easily Purchased Without a Prescription and Present Significant Challenges to Law Enforcement Officials

GAO-06-243R: Nov 3, 2005

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This report responds to a Congressional request that we investigate whether anabolic steroids can be purchased without a prescription and test whether such purchases are easily made. Congress also asked us to identify common sources of illegal anabolic steroids, and significant challenges law enforcement officials encounter in investigating, prosecuting, and deterring criminal anabolic steroid traffickers.

Our 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, we received 10 shipments of anabolic steroids; all were shipped from foreign countries. We 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 (FDA). We are referring the evidence concerning our purchases to the Drug Enforcement Administration and to FDA for appropriate action. The officials we spoke with told us 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. Further, 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. Additionally, some officials noted the relatively low sentences that result from application of the federal sentencing guidelines to persons convicted of illegal steroid trafficking.