Busted: Legal Q & A; Fit to be Thai’ed

Q: I saw on Facebook that you were recently in Thailand. How do Thai views on bodybuilding and fitness compare with those in the Western world?

A: I had the privilege of being invited to lecture at the Asia Fitness Convention (AFC) in Bangkok. I spoke about performance-enhancing drugs, steroids and supplements, emphasizing what fitness professionals need to know about coaching drug-tested athletes. The audience included trainers and nutritionists from all over Asia.

While interest in Western fitness programs is growing in Thailand, truly hardcore bodybuilding continues to lag behind. my guide through the streets and wats (Buddhist temples) of Bangkok, explained that Thais traditionally associate anabolic steroid use with homosexuality (coincidentally, a new report in the journal Pediatrics claims that gay and bisexual American boys are nearly six times more likely to misuse steroids than their straight counterparts). Strict regulations on dietary supplements put forth by the Thai equivalent of FDA rendered many popular products illegal to market (the AFC expo had only one vendor booth for supplements, and even then the product formulas were tweaked to comply with Thai restrictions). My observation of the clientele in a serious Thai gym was that the vast majority of members were ex-pats from the West.

Hardcore bodybuilding may not yet be thriving in Thailand, but, ironically, the steroid business remains robust. MD contributor Doug Kalman and I visited pharmacies to research the availability of anabolics for this column, and were not disappointed. Pharmacies in Thailand are unlike the CVS and Walgreens stores of America. They are tiny shops, not much bigger than closets. The pharmacists, from behind desks, offered us a variety of steroids and ancillary drugs without prescriptions. However, some injectables, like Sustanon and Deca, were typically only available from hospital pharmacies with a prescription – the results of a purported regulatory effort to “crack down” on fakes.

While finding muscle drugs wasn’t difficult, our shopping was academic only. Taking the goods with you on a flight back to the US can get you busted. Importing controlled substances into the US is a felony (21 USC §952, §960), and the personal use exemptions (21 USC §956 [land borders] and 21 CFR §1301.26) are not typically a defense. The exemptions are dependent upon proper declarations to Customs, a 50 dosage unit limitation (i.e., 50 tablets or 25 ml), and a legitimate medical use – which DEA interprets as a medical need for the drug during your journey, not as a desire to stock up for a future juice cycle.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the AFC and the International Society of Sports Nutrition, I witnessed fitness across the globe, met many new friends, and experienced the amazing city of Bangkok – a highlight was ringside seating for fight night in Lumpinee Stadium, the symbol of modern Muay Thai boxing!


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, 2014. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice. Reprinted with permission from a column in Muscular Development magazine. To read Rick’s monthly column as soon as it’s published, please subscribe to MD!]