by Josh Hodnik
The Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act (DASCA) of 2014 passed the House, the Senate, and was signed into action by our President late last year. Similar bills have been introduced in previous years, but they never generated much steam. The government has been under heavy scrutiny by taxpayers who have demanded for changes to be made in regards to the lackluster economy, foreign policy, and health care reform. These issues probably played a role in any bill involving the supplement industry or anabolic steroids being put on the back burner.
2014 was a year that the public started to feel more confident in our economy and, and this may be one of the reasons that politicians took the time to tackle a seemingly irrelevant issue when pushing the DASCA of 2014. This bill expanded the list of Schedule III anabolic steroids by adding more than two-dozen compounds to the list. Many of these substances were recently sold over-the-counter, but are now classified with steroids like trenbolone, oxandrolone, and boldenone. The newly added steroids were referred to as “prohormones”, and they were more commonly sold in capsule form by several companies. Many of the prohormones sold were weak anabolic substances themselves, but they would convert to stronger steroidal compounds after ingested. These products were popular among bodybuilders and athletes that wanted to add muscle and strength with the help of an anabolic agent, while still staying within the parameters of the law.
This is a list of compounds that were banned in the 2014 Act:
The bill that passed the previous year is not the first of it’s kind to be signed into action. The Steroid Control Act of 2004 added twenty-six to the list of illegal anabolic steroids. Like the prohormones being sold prior to the 2014 ban, these twenty-six compounds were being sold over-the-counter as prohormones. When the first ban occurred in 2004, supplement companies simply replaced the prohormones with other compounds that were similar in structure but not on the banned list. Lawmakers have caught onto this, and the most recent bill is worded in a way to close this loophole.
In the 2014 bill it states:
(i) Subject to clause (ii), a drug or hormonal substance (other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids, and dehydroepiandrosterone) that is not listed in subparagraph (A) and is derived from, or has a chemical structure substantially similar to, 1 or more anabolic steroids listed in subparagraph (A) shall be considered to be an anabolic steroid for purposes of this Act if—
(I) the drug or substance has been created or manufactured with the intent of producing a drug or other substance that either—
(aa) promotes muscle growth; or
(bb) otherwise causes a pharmacological effect similar to that of testosterone; or
(II) the drug or substance has been, or is intended to be, marketed or otherwise promoted in any manner suggesting that consuming it will promote muscle growth or any other pharmacological effect similar to that of testosterone.
(ii) A substance shall not be considered to be a drug or hormonal substance for purposes of this subparagraph if it—
(aa) an herb or other botanical;
(bb) a concentrate, metabolite, or extract of, or a constituent isolated directly from, an herb or other botanical; or
(cc) a combination of 2 or more substances described in item (aa) or (bb);
(II) is a dietary ingredient for purposes of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act ( 21 U.S.C. 301 et seq. ); and
(III) is not anabolic or androgenic.
The intent of this section within this Act is to stop supplement companies from doing what they had done in the past, and that is just putting together a supplement that isn’t on the banned list, but is similar in structure or action. This practice has been going on for years, and the FDA could not keep up with all of the compounds being produced. In the past, a bill similar to the one that passed last year would be introduced, and before it was passed or rejected, new compounds were ready to be marketed and sold.
The FDA outlined section (C) of the bill with very broad terminology. For example, they state that any substance that is anabolic or androgenic, or that promotes muscle growth can be added to the list of banned steroids at any time. Creatine monohydrate causes anabolic effects and promotes muscle growth. Does this mean that creatine should be considered an anabolic steroid? Of course not, but the wording in this bill could be perceived that way. This example shows that the broadness of this bill is an attempt to close loopholes, but the broadness could be considered vague, and not precise enough to prosecute anyone unless it pertains to a substance that is already on the banned list. Vagueness is also present in the bill when stating that compounds similar in structure to the ones listed in this Act can be added to the list by the FDA without notice. This could also lead to civil and criminal attacks on individuals or companies that are involved in any compound that the FDA may feel falls in the scope of being similar to an illegal compound. Many compounds exist that have completely different actions but can be considered as similar in structure. And compounds exist that have similar action but are nowhere close to being similar in structure. When the word similar is used in this bill, it’s not clearly defined, and that may be a ploy to give the FDA broader authority in how it can handle any ingredient or product that promotes anabolism.
It’s no secret that lawmakers are against anything that displays any anabolic properties. Large amounts of money and manpower have been foolishly wasted in order to prosecute cases involving anabolic steroids and other compounds that are anabolic in action. There have been some recent issues involving the supplement industry that the FDA is well aware of. Several large companies have been accused of spiking protein powders with cheap fillers in order to increase profit margins. Dr. Oz is well known for making false claims about particular supplements to millions of viewers, which he benefits financially from. If the integrity of the supplement industry is what the FDA is concerned with, these issues are where their focus would be. There is still that stigma attached to testosterone and anything anabolic. The FDA succeeded in wiping out most of the prohormones that were available over-the-counter. The FDA did exclude DHEA hormones in this latest bill, and there are some very effective compounds in this group for increasing muscle mass and strength. I don’t see these compounds being added to the banned list anytime in the near future. Bodybuilders that benefited from the old prohormones can transition to several DHEA compounds while still experiencing the progress they had with many compounds that are now illegal.