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Muscle Profiling by Swedish Police

Q: I heard that Toney Freeman was taken into custody by Swedish police and forced to submit to steroid testing for being “too” muscular! Do the Swedes really hate muscle that much?

A: The facts: Toney Freeman was touring Sweden to make public appearances. While signing autographs for fans in a shop in the small city of Sundsvall (pop. 50,000), he was surrounded and arrested by uniformed police. Local news outlets were tipped off so that TV crews could film the arrest. The “X-Man” was forced to submit to a urine test to see if he was using drugs – specifically, steroids. There was no probable cause to believe he was committing any crime – other than that Sundsvall Police Chief Henrik Blusi believes that extreme muscularity means steroid use, and that steroid use is a serious crime. “If you are a professional bodybuilder, you shouldn’t come to Sundsvall,” warned Blusi, who previously spearheaded a highly-publicized nationwide anti-steroid operation. Freeman was released pending the test results. [My thanks go to1980 IFBB Pro Mr. International Andreas Cahling for his help in translating and researching the Swedish media accounts; www.andreascahling.com.] As a result of this “muscle profiling,” Jay Cutler canceled his appearance at the Swedish Fitness Festival in Göteborg.

My take: Basing “probable cause” – the standard of evidence required to arrest – on a person’s appearance is offensive. Like skin color or ethnic background, body type shouldn’t provide probable cause for an arrest. Sorry, Blusi, but suspected drug use as a justification doesn’t cut it. Profiling someone acting wacked or zoned out on crack, speed or hash is about suspicious behavior, not appearance. That’s different from arresting someone because his muscles look “too” big. And the argument that it later turned out that Blusi’s suspicions were correct – Freeman reportedly admitted the use of testosterone and growth hormone (by prescription) – is exactly the kind of “ends justify the means” thinking that American justice abhors. Otherwise, every warrant-less search and shocking violation of personal privacy would be A-OK, as long as evidence of guilt is recovered.

Not only is Blusi’s approach wrong in principle, but it’s ridiculously subjective in practice. In the absence of definitive standards, what’s passable for one cop may be “too” big for another. Is being 6 foot and 260 pounds sufficient evidence of juicing? What about 240, or 220? And what about body composition – isn’t 220 with 30% bodyfat different from 220 with 10%? Should the police create a chart of acceptable heights, weights and bodyfat levels, so that bodybuilders can know how big and lean they can get before being arrested? Or will everyone in Sweden simply scale back their training and stay safely in the range of nondescript mediocrity? And what about short-term visiting foreigners from countries where steroids are legal? How about those who are on medically prescribed testosterone replacement by their physicians? In such cases, the actual administration of the hormones may not have even occurred on Swedish soil. What crime has even been committed in Sweden?! And yet these people’s medical privacy will be violated on the Swedish TV news!

Sure, Blusi’s approach is deeply flawed, but it’s not an isolated incident. My friend Alex Danielsson, editor-in-chief of Sweden’s BODY magazine, describes a pervasive anti-muscle bias in his country today, expressed in the media and even in law enforcement tactics. He cites for example the cases of Stockholm cops who were profiling and arresting suspected steroid users purely by the size of their trapezius muscles! So, while Freeman’s misfortune might have been a badge-wielding crusader’s publicity stunt to snatch some TV airtime for himself, it’s part of a larger trend.

About ten years ago, I was part of a commission conducting legal hearings in Stockholm. I very much enjoyed the hospitality and culture of the Swedish people and looked forward to returning. I’m not so enthusiastic now. I’m not saying American media sources are much better, or that Swedish police shouldn’t enforce the law, but I’m turned off by a country that so blatantly permits its law enforcers – even small-town police chiefs – to disrespect the basic concepts of liberty and privacy that our great Constitution provides here in the States. [Thoughts? Tell me at Twitter.com/RickCollinsEsq.]

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Rick Collins, JD, CSCS [www.rickcollins.com] is the lawyer that members of the bodybuilding community and nutritional supplement industry turn to when they need legal help or representation. [© Rick Collins, 2011. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Reprinted/adapted from Rick’s “BUSTED!” column in Muscular Development magazine.]