These days, more and more people ask the age-old question: “Are steroids illegal?”  In all honesty, the answer to that question depends on factors like location, what you are using, and whether or not you have a prescription. Learning about whether steroids are legal where you live can help you make better decisions about your fitness. It’s also vital to understand the legal consequences for those who decide to use illegally.

What the Law Says

In places like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many other countries around the world, the answer to the question “are steroids illegal” depends on whether or not you have a prescription from a doctor. In all of these locations, buying, selling, or manufacturing anabolic steroids is a criminal offense, and you’re only allowed to purchase from a pharmacy with a prescription. They are controlled substances in most areas of the world, although there are a few exceptions such as Mexico, Egypt, Israel, Thailand and others.

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Why are they Illegal without a Prescription?

In answering the question, “Why are they illegal?”, there’s a great deal of controversy. The explanation is a lengthy one, but one that starts to make sense the more you think about history and the governments of most first-world countries. In the 1960s, anabolics were favored among Olympic athletes. They were also commonplace in many professional sports leagues, including the NFL and MLB, among others. Some athletes had access; in fact, American and Russian coaches in those years were known for requiring their athletes to use them. In other countries around the world, they were simply not available for reasons outside the athletes’ control. This gave countries (and athletes) who had access an unfair advantage, so the Olympic Games Committee, along with most professional sports leagues, banned them.

Are Steroid LegalFollowing the ban, athletes continued to find ways to use to improve their performance. After sufficient tests for detecting the presence were available, those athletes got caught and banned from participating, and the media sensationalized it. Thanks to the media, they gained a negative connotation, but not because they were inherently dangerous – because athletes went outside the confines of the law and used them anyway.

That negativity grew, and when the Reagan Administration enforced the Anti-Drug Abuse Act in 1988 and subsequently added them to the Controlled Substances List in 1990, they were officially criminalized. Why are they illegal? Mainly because the media created a skewed viewpoint, leading people to believe they are more dangerous than they truly are.

Timeline of Legality in the US

In the US have been around since the 1950s, and between then and now, many things have occurred that have affected the legality.

YearWhat Changed?The Result
1955
Steroids introduced to sports
Athletes began using steroids more often
1960
Dianabol use noticed by doctors
Dianabol is used to treat medical conditions
1967-1970
Steroids banned by Olympics and sports leagues
Athletes testing positive were banned
1986
Anti-Drug Abuse Act
Mandatory minimum sentences for drugs
1990
Steroids added to Controlled Substances List
Possession of steroids is now a felony
2004
Steroid Control Act
Enhanced legislature enforcing sentencing

Since 1990, very little has changed. When discovering why they are illegal, it is also important to consider the legal implications of possessing and using them. In the US, the minimum sentence for the possession without a doctor’s prescription results in a minimum fine of $1000. Individuals who have prior drug-related convictions, even for simple possession, must serve at least 15 days in jail and pay at least $2500, but the sentence can be as long as two years. Individuals who have two or more previous convictions are sentenced to a minimum of 90 days in jail and a minimum fine of $5000, but some may serve up to five years. What’s more, those who distribute (sell) are sentenced to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at the very minimum. This is a harsher sentence than vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol, and many people believe it is far too harsh for that very reason. With this information in mind, you should carefully consider the risks of using and selling.

Places Where You Can Possess

Are Steroids LegalIn some countries, the law is very clear about buying and selling, but there are few (if any) provisions made for possession. For example, in Canada, the penalty for possessing is very slight. In most cases, they will be confiscated and you will be asked to pay a fine. In the UK, there is no outright law regarding the possession. So, are they illegal in Canada and the UK? The answer is yes and no, so it is important to do your research.

Why the Controversy?

The controversy surrounding them started back in the 1940s, around the time when they were first introduced to Olympic athletes. Over the years, as more and more people began using to enhance their athletic performance and other Olympics participants noted that those using provided an unfair advantage, the media began to focus on the negative aspects of use. Later, in the 1980s under the Reagan administration, the United States banned the sale, purchase, and use without a prescription and other countries around the world followed suit.

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Are They Illegal Everywhere?

In some countries, you can buy, sell, and possess with no legal repercussions. One of the best examples of this is Mexico, where many American and Canadian athletes go to purchase and complete their cycles. Although a handful do require a prescription in Mexico, others, such as Deca Durabolin, do not. You can purchase veterinary-grade from almost any veterinarian in Mexico, too. In fact, there are numerous underground labs that transform veterinary “pellets” into pills or injectable serums for human use.

Just remember that while it is legal to buy and use in Mexico, there are criminal consequences for bringing them back over the border. Are steroids illegal? In the US, Canada, the UK, and most other countries, the answer is yes – unless you have a valid prescription from your doctor. In other places, such as Mexico, you are free to purchase, possess and use as you see fit, as long as you do so within those countries’ borders.