With all the Barry Bonds media coverage I thought it might be helpful to discuss an area of Florida and Federal law that could impact many athletes and even your local gym enthusiasts: the use of steroids or growth hormone to enhance physical performance or increase muscle mass. Of course, Bonds is not indicted for possession of these drugs – he has been indicted for perjury in front of a grand jury for lying under oath about having used the drugs. He is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, a fact many people forget.
The possession of “steroids” without a valid prescription in Florida, which are considered controlled substances under Florida Statute section 893, is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida state prison. Anabolic steroids, including various forms of testosterone, are now considered Class III drugs under Florida law. To give you an idea how strict the legislature has made the laws, they consider the potential of steroids being more addictive and more of a public health concern that xanax or valium, both of which are sedatives classified as schedule IV drugs and considered by doctors to be addictive medications. (Possession of these drugs without a valid prescription is also a third degree felony). The term “anabolic steroid” means any drug or hormonal substance, chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone, other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids, that promotes muscle growth. The sale or distribution, which, under Florida law, can mean merely giving the drug to another person, is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Possession GHB and GBL, two other drugs known to release growth hormone to assist body builders to develop their physiques, carries with it extreme penalites under Florida’s newly enacted laws making their possession illegal. Mere possessing a relatively small amount will mandate a three year minimum sentence. (In Florida, the mere possession of some drugs in sufficient enough quantity is considered trafficking and carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence – it makes no difference whether the individual had any intent to distribute the drug or use it for personal use).
It is unclear whether Florida law addresses the possession of human growth hormone. The federal system criminalizes possession with intent to distribute human growth hormone. Chapter 21 U.S.C.A. § 333 declares that whoever knowingly distributes, or possesses with intent to distribute, human growth hormone for any use in humans other than the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition, where such use has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services under section 355 of this title and pursuant to the order of a physician, is guilty of an offense punishable by not more than 5 years in prison. A person distributing growth hormone shall also possibly be fined in accordance with the amounts of fine authorized by Title 18. Federal sentencing guidelines also consider steroids to be a schedule III drug on the same level or potential for abuse as LSD. In 2004, Congress passed the Anabolic Steroid Control Act, which directed that the Sentencing Commission review the federal sentencing guidelines and provide for increased penalties that reflect the seriousness of the offenses. An emergency amendment proposed in 2006 provided for a sentencing enhancement for athletes using masking agents to hide their steroid use and for coaches who pressure athletes into experimenting with the drug and for individuals who distribute to athletes
One thing is clear, because of high profile cases such as Barry Bonds, it may become politically popular for our state legislatures to pass tougher laws regarding performance enhancing drugs.
In Florida, pursuant to Florida Statute section 458.331, a physician is subject to discipline and his or her license may be at stake for prescribing testosterone, or it’s analogs, e.g. anabolic steroids, or human growth hormone, for purpose of muscle building or performance enhancement purposes. Of course, there are legitimate medical reasons why a physician may prescribe these substances if he or she feels they are medically necessary. Many men go through andropause, which occurs to some men later in life when testosterone is not produced in the body at sufficient levels for the man to function normally – not only sexually but without adequate energy levels and without incurring serious depression. There also men who have hypopituitarism that results in either not enough testosterone or human growth hormone being produced sufficiently to function normally. I have had cases in Florida where I have had my client’s testosterone levels checked by a doctor to lay the groundwork that my client wouldn’t have the physical drive necessary to be the aggressor in a fight or other situation.