201901.07
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The Proposed SARMs Control Act

Q: What’s up with the new bill in Congress that would ban SARMs?  

A: If you have ever used Ostarine or any other Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator (SARM), either purchased as what’s claimed to be a “research chemical” or a “dietary supplement,” you should be aware that a Congressional bill was introduced last year that would change the way SARMs are classified. The bipartisan SARMs Control Act of 2018 (S.2742), introduced by U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would classify SARMs as controlled substances – putting them in the same law with opiates, meth and cocaine.

What’s behind this initiative? The push is coming from at least three interested groups. First and foremost, the anti-doping establishment. Recognizing the performance-enhancing potential of SARMs as a class, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned them (including “andarine and ostarine”) in January 2008. But since then, numerous athletes (including several UFC fighters) have tested positive for SARMs, causing public embarrassment, event cancellations and lost profits. Understandably, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and other anti-doping agencies want to reduce the availability of SARMs. Second, the dietary supplement industry trade groups. The sale of SARMs labeled as “dietary supplements” has been a black eye on the industry, inviting criticism and provoking demands to change the current regulatory protections of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) – a change that the industry has fought against for years. However, the sale of SARMs as “dietary supplements” is already illegal (because SARMs don’t meet the legal criteria to be a dietary supplement ingredient) and the FDA has the ability to bring criminal and civil enforcement against manufacturers and distributors.Third, public health watchdogs. SARMs are drugs, and like all drugs they have potential adverse effects. Unlike FDA-approved drugs, many SARMs have not been subjected to rigorous clinical trials, making their unmonitored and unsupervised use more troubling – especially when the products don’t come from pharmacies and FDA-approved manufacturing facilities but instead often from kitchen chemists who import the raw chemicals from China and pitch them online. Given all of this, it’s not surprising that there’s a push by politicians to reduce their availability.

But what policy should be implemented to do so? Imposing controlled substance status on SARMs transfers the primary enforcement jurisdiction from FDA to DEA and can increase the severity of punishment for those convicted of distribution. But it not only affects the distributors of the products, but the buyers as well. Controlled substance status would make anyone who possesses any amount of a SARM for personal use subject to arrest and imprisonment as a federal drug criminal. If the law passes, those who have stocked up on SARMs would be in the same legal predicament under federal law as those who have an anabolic steroid stash. And guess what? When federal law is amended, most states alter their laws to conform. Once that happens, state and local police can arrest for SARMs, so that possessors are only one unexpected car stop or one bitter ex-spouse phone call away from a set of handcuffs.

Will the SARMs Control Act work? Does criminalization really work, or will demand always drive supply? Or, if SARMs and steroids are both Schedule III, wouldn’t SARMs users just migrate over to traditional gear? And more broadly, is the arrest and imprisonment of American consumers the right way to deal with the problems presented? I believe that such an approach should always be the last policy resort. Turning otherwise law-abiding consumers into convicted drug criminals — with all the collateral consequences on employment, education, licensing and housing – creates a whole new universe of societal problems. Sports cheating, unfair spillover criticism of the supplement industry and even adverse health impacts on some consumers are all legitimate problems, but I’ve also seen firsthand the devastation that a criminal conviction has upon a client and his or her family.  At a time when the War on Drugs has been deemed a failure by many in the justice system, do we want to legislate an expansion of that war into a whole new category of substances, especially when the use is clearly not causing the types of social ills (e.g., overdose deaths, street crime) caused by other drugs and when the users are fitness-oriented people merely seeking physical improvements of their own bodies, not a psychoactive high? Just because special interest groups or even society as a whole thinks the use of a substance is bad doesn’t mean we should turn the users into federal (and ultimately state) drug criminals, as the SARMs Act would do.

In the months after the bill was introduced, I had the chance to discuss its approach with numerous leaders in the dietary supplement industry, including influential members of trade groups. I voiced many of the concerns articulated in this blog post. For now, it looks like cooler heads have prevailed and the SARMs bill may not be reintroduced to Congress. But to stay in the know, be sure to check back at Steroidlaw.com periodically for updates. In addition, for any legal questions regarding SARMs and the SARMs Control Act, or to discuss any questions you may have regarding anabolic steroids and the law, call us anytime at 516-294-0300.

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[© Rick Collins, 2018. All rights reserved. For informational purposes only, not to be construed as legal or medical advice.]