PtG Article 11.11.2002

Doping Trade: Business for The Big Ones

Chief detective inspector Gunnar Hermansson from the Swedish police is an expert on the black market for anabolic steroids and other hormones. In this articles he outlines the main illegal products and explains where they come from.

Keywords: Doping

Smuggling of anabolic steroids and other related hormon substances is big business but not a big crime in most of the world.

It is possible to buy this kind of pharmaceuticals without prescriptions in most countries in Asia, Africa and in South America. Even in Europe, in some Mediterranian countries, it is no problem to find pharmacists selling anabolic steroids and testosterone products in large quantities directely to private persons without questions.

This illegal drug trade is extensive and lucrative all over the world but, unlike smuggling of narcotic drugs, very few countries interfere in the illegal doping trade. In most countries the priority from police and customs authorities is very low regarding blackmarket trading of anabolic substances.

The exception in Europe is the four Nordic countries Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. These countries have since ten years implemented special legislations meaning that all unauthorized dealing with anabolic steroids, testosteron and growth hormone is illegal. The Norwegian law includes prohormones like androstenedione and DHEA, and stimulants like ephedrine, and the Danish doping law also include erythropoietin, EPO.

With support of these legislations there are a lot of seizures made by customs officers at the borders in the Nordic countries. The smuggling of anabolic steroids and testosteron derivates is extensive and has increased the last two-three years.

Within the countries the police seize from time to time big amounts of these pharmaceuticals from illegal dealers in Sweden and in the other Nordic countries, in spite of low priority even here. The lower priority depends on the punishments, which are much lower for smuggling doping agents than for smuggling narcotic drugs. The highest sentence in Sweden for aggravated doping crime is four years imprisonment.

Most hormones stem from EU, Turkey, Egypt and Thailand 

The last years statistics shows an increasing curve.

Most of the hormone products in the European black market nowdays come from countries wihtin the European union or from Eastern European countries like Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, but also sometimes from Turkey and Egypt. Another very popular country of origin for anabolic steroids is Thailand, and sometimes we also find these preparations produced in Pakistan, India and even in Korea.

One popular anabolic steroid from Thailand is the one you can see in the folder for this conference. The tablets contain 5 mg of the substance methandienon, the same substance as in the classical anabolic steroid Dianabol. Some domestic pharmaceutical companies in Thailand manufacture these tablets under different brand names like Anabol Tablets and Methandon. All these methandienon tablets from Thailand are sold in medicine pots of 1000 tablets each, and according to one supplier, British Dispensary Co Ltd, these tablets are used to increase muscles and weight for sports people, and for some medical reasons for old people and people suffering from osteoporosis.

One major seazure of these Anabol Tablets was made by the customs in Belgrade recently. A sealed postbag from Thailand contained 420,000 pink, five-edged Anabol Tablets.

There is also manufacturing of 5 mg methandienone tablets in Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania under varying brand names. The Russian Methandrostenolone is most common in the Nordic black market, and since a few years these tablets are sold in packings of 300 tablets each.

A number of anabolic steroids that are sold in Thailand, Greece, Egypt and in many other countries are produced by the worldwide pharmaceutical company Organon.

Organon manufacture Deca-Durabolin in 1 and 2 ml ampoules for injection, and they contain the very popular anabolic steroid nandrolone. Another popular Organon product is capsules containing a testosterone derivate. At the Greek market the brand name is Restandol and in other countries they have other brand names.

In Greece there is also domestic production of nandrolone ampoules. The pharmaceutical company Genepharm produce Extraboline ampoules and the company Norma makes 2 ml ampoules with the brand name Nandrolone Decanoate.

The company Zambon in Spain deliveres the anabolic steroid stanozolol in both tablets and ampoules for injection under the brand name Winstrol.

These are some of the most frequent occurring anabolic steroids and testosterone products in Europe.

Some big pharmaceutical companies are responsible for a great part of the anabolic steroids and testosterone products that are found in the black market. Bearing the nowdays restricted medical use of anabolic steroids in mind, compared to the huge amounts of these products seen outside of medical control, there has to be a considerable legal overproduction in the world. The manufacturer are probably not unaware of this fact.

Growth hormones are believed to be very popular among sports people because of their ability to enhance athletic performance, and because there are no tests for it yet. But these hormones are not as common as anabolic steroids among seizures made by the police and the customs.

Probably because they are much more expensive and more difficult to divert from the legal channels to the black market. The most popular growth hormones in the Nordic illegal market is Genotropin produced by Pharmacia in Sweden and Norditropin from Novo-Nordisk here in Denmark. We have a good cooperation with this companies in order to prevent diversion.

Counterfeiting is a growing problem

The big demand from the black market for different anabolic preparations has of course created a growing market for counterfeit products. At least 10 % of the seized products that are analyzed by our forensic laboratories concist of in some way deviated preparations. Some are completely ineffective, or diluted or contain other substances. We seem to have a growing illegal industri here.

Let me give you two examples.

The customs in Finland have during this year investigated a case of illegal import of different anabolic steroid substances from Italy. The substances was delivered to Russian people in Finland and smuggled to Russia. After illegal manufacturing of anabolic steroids the preparations were smuggled back to Finland and to other countries including Sweden.

The police in Belgium seized this summer 500 kilos of anabolic steroids and testosterone preparations ready for distribution to other countries within Europe. Some of the products were counterfeited, and they are believed to come from persons who, some years ago, were sentenced to jail for counterfeiting and illegal distribution of anabolic steroids in Europe.

The Internet as market place

Finally some words about internet and doping.

Many of these underground suppliers of anabolic steroids make their business through internet and e-mail orders, which makes it very easy to order and pay, and wait for a quick and discrete delivery at the door. Some of these websites look very professional, often with the word Pharma in the web address. Like Pharmabolics, PharmaEurope and

These companies offer steroids and related hormone products. Most accept credit cards and money orders. The customers order by e-mail, and the products are sent express in unmarked parcels.

Internet is a medium for coming into contact with people with the same interest, and internet is also a source of information. A search for "anabolic steroids" on a popular search engine produced more than 84 000 results. A search for just "steroids" produced 314 000 results. "growth hormones" and "androstenedione" gave 42 000 and 41 000 results respectively.

To summarize: The illegal doping trade is increasing these days, and the supply from legal and illegal manufacturers seems to be unlimited. Internet and open borders, especially within Europe, makes it easier for black market actors and more difficult for law enforcement to stop this illegal trade.

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