On December 18, 2014, President Obama signed the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2014 – DASCA for short. Several years in the making, DASCA cracks down on the over-the-counter “prohormone” segment of the sports nutrition supplement market.
25 New “Anabolic Steroids.” DASCA lists 25 steroidal compounds as newly criminalized anabolic steroids. [Note that most if not all of these substances do not meet the criteria to be marketed and sold as dietary supplements and the FDA has had, and continues to have, the authority to bring cases for federal prosecution under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.] Like all the anabolic steroids that are already Schedule III drugs, these substances are now illegal not only to sell, but to possess. Possessing any quantity of any of the new substances on the list is now a federal misdemeanor. Distribution and possession with the intent to distribute are felonies.
Analogues of Listed Steroids Also Illegal. DASCA criminalizes very close relatives of explicitly listed steroids. It says that “a drug or hormonal substance (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and dehydroepiandrosterone) that is not listed … and is derived from, or has a chemical structure substantially similar to, 1 or more [listed] anabolic steroids [is considered an anabolic steroid] if … [it] has been created or manufactured with the intent of [promoting muscle growth or having pharmacological effects like testosterone or] has been, or is intended to be, marketed or otherwise promoted [to suggest it will promote muscle growth or have pharmacological effects like testosterone].” In other words, derivatives and slight variations on compounds which are on the list can violate the law if they are made or if they are marketed, or intended to be marketed, to build muscle or have effects like testosterone.
Exemptions. DASCA prohibits a compound from being a drug or hormonal substance under the law if it is “an herb or other botanical” or “a concentrate, metabolite, or extract of, or a constituent isolated directly from, an herb or other botanical” AND if it is a dietary ingredient (under DSHEA) and “is not anabolic or androgenic.” DASCA places the burden of proof upon anyone seeking to claim an exemption.
Mislabeling Provision. DASCA introduces a whole new theory by which to prosecute steroid cases by making it a crime to import, export, manufacture, distribute, dispense, sell, offer to sell, or possess with intent to manufacture or sell any anabolic steroid, or any product containing an anabolic steroid, unless it bears a label clearly identifying the anabolic steroid by accepted (IUPAC) nomenclature. This provision would apply to manufacturers who use deceptive or “creative” ingredient labeling to conceal that the product is an anabolic steroid. It would also apply to distributors and retailers who know, intend, or have reasonable cause to believe that the product contains an anabolic steroid.
Shortcut to Adding New Compounds. The Attorney General will be able to add new “designer” compounds to the list of anabolic steroids with greater ease and speed (with only 30 days’ notice for temporary scheduling).
Increased Penalties. Criminal penalties can be up to 10 years imprisonment and massive fines (up to $2.5 million on corporations). Civil penalties can be up to $500,000 per product violation for importers, exporters, manufacturers and distributors. Even retailers can be hit with a $25,000 penalty per product violation (and each package size, form, or differently labeled item is a separate product).
No Grace Period. The previous anti-prohormone legislation (2004) gave a 90 day grace period before the law took effect. By failing to include a grace period in the DASCA, innocent consumers have been turned into federal drug criminals overnight. The bottle a customer bought in a store on December 17 became a controlled substance the next day. Possessing the bottle could now subject that consumer to prosecution for 21 USC 844 – federal drug possession. Companies who now find themselves in possession of controlled substance stock may want to divest themselves of it. But DEA regulations provide no lawful mechanism to do so.
What’s Next? It’s too early to predict the extent to which DASCA will be enforced (for example, will any consumers actually be busted?) or whether individual states will conform their laws to it. Opinions about the law vary widely. Supplement industry trade associations applaud DASCA as a way to protect consumers. But some supplement consumers believe Congress should focus on more urgent matters and stay away from telling adult Americans what they can and can’t do with their own bodies. Even some who feel prohormones shouldn’t be on the market have grave concerns about creating a law that makes federal drug criminals out of fitness-minded consumers.
Rick Collins, JD, CSCS is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation. Call Rick at 516-294-0300 if you need serious legal help, and visit him at www.steroidlaw.com, www.supplementcounsel.com, and www.cmgesq.com. [© Rick Collins, 2014. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice.]