Putting Pressure on Illegal Steroid Traffic

By Modeland, Vern | FDA Consumer, October 1989 | Go to article overview

Putting Pressure on Illegal Steroid Traffic


Modeland, Vern, FDA Consumer


Putting Pressure On Illegal Steroid Traffic

Though the game is not over, law enforcement agencies are scoring points in their efforts to stop the black market in anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, a male sex hormone. They are approved for limited use in treating some debilitating diseases. Steroids are being misused, however, by athletes and body builders--many of high-school age--who endanger their health through unsupervised and non-medicinal dosing in hopes of developing more attractive or stronger bodies. (See "Anabolic Steroids: Pumping Trouble" in the September 1984 FDA Consumer.)

Steroids have become a $100-million-a-year business, according to Donald Leggett of the Office of Compliance in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and all branches of the federal government are cooperating to combat the illegal trafficking.

While Congress explores ways to put more power in the regulations and the penalties for illegal distribution of the drugs, FDA, the Postal Inspection Service, Department of Justice, Customs Service, and other agencies have pursued investigations, indictments and prosecutions under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. That act made it unlawful to distribute anabolic steroids for any purpose other than treatment of a disease under a physician's orders. More than 80 persons and corporations have since been convicted of federal criminal charges under the act. At least seven clandestine manufacturing locations have been found and closed, and illegal drugs valued at more than $16 million have been seized.

One of the more recent cases involved a Spartanburg, S.C., wholesale pharmaceutical business operated by L. Danny Rogers and W.C. Bain, III, who were openly selling steroids directly to individuals. FDA learned of the operation in 1983 and advised Rogers that such activity was illegal. In 1984, Rogers established a new business--R & R Pharmaceuticals--which FDA contended was primarily a front for continued black-market distribution of steroids. And in 1985, Rogers joined with John M. Lamb, president of Syncon Pharmaceuticals, Snellville, Ga., to make and sell tablet and injectable steroids. They solicited a Snellville, Ga., printer, Denis H. Curphey, to produce labels indicating the steroids originated in Europe.

Criminal investigation into Rogers' activities began in 1987 and resulted in a 44-count indictment by a federal grand jury in 1988. Indicted were Rogers and his wife, Brenda, Lamb and his wife, Carol, Bain, and Curphey, as well as both the company making the illegal steroids and Curphey's printing business. It was the first prosecution of a printer in a steroid case.

All the defendants entered guilty pleas before the U.S. district judge in the District of South Carolina, Spartanburg Division, and are awaiting sentencing.

In another case, in April 1988, following a two-year investigation, pills and chemicals valued at more than $2 million were confiscated in shutting down what the government called the largest suppliers of illegal steroids to gyms and weight-lifting clubs in the Washington, D.C., area.

FBI and postal inspectors traced weekly shipments of the illicit drugs from Miami to Washington, D.C. From there, they were distributed in the city and neighboring Virginia and Maryland suburbs. Other illegal steroids were shipped from Miami labs throughout Florida and to cities in the Southeast and Midwest, according to Dexter Lehtinen, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Justin Rogers Routt and Clark Scott Daniels, both from the Miami area, were charged by the Department of Justice with illegally manufacturing and distributing counterfeit anabolic steroid products, distributing anabolic steroids without a prescription, conspiracy, and mail fraud. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy, mail fraud, and adulteration of prescription drugs. Routt could be sentenced to as many as 16 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.

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