Athletes using anabolic steroids to enhance performance will face increasing scrutiny when a get-tough federal law takes effect next week, Robert C. Bonner, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Thursday at a news conference in Washington.
For the first time, possession of small amounts of steroids for uses not prescribed by a physician will be a federal crime. The maximum penalty for possession will be one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine.
The law, which will be implemented Wednesday, is designed to target athletes, body builders and teen-agers who use steroids to increase muscle mass, Bonner said.
Steroids will be categorized as medium-level Schedule 3 drugs, the same as barbiturates and codeine products. Schedule 3 drugs are those used for medical reasons but that might be potentially abused.
In the past, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Customs Service and the Internal Revenue Service have attempted to stop illegal manufacturing, distribution and importation of steroids through interstate commerce and tax laws.
But now those aspects, as well as possession, will carry tougher penalties, DEA officials said. The maximum penalty for trafficking and illegal dispensing of anabolic steroids will be five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
Frank Shults, the DEA's chief of public affairs, said enforcement agents will try to stop the flow of steroids by targeting high-volume traffickers, along with individuals in local gymnasiums.