PtG Article 31.01.2007

In Finland illegal doping drugs now arrive by courier

In Finland drugs for sports doping are increasingly arriving by couriers rather than by mail or air freight. Last year customs officers at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport uncovered 72 cases of doping substance crimes, and in some cases the smugglers had more than 10,000 hormone ampules or tablets in their checked luggage.

Chief Customs inspector Mika Pitkäniemi tells the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that this type of smuggling is a new phenomenon in Finland.

"Normally Finland gets small consignments of doping substances via air mail or as air freight. Now many couriers are being caught at the aiport, carrying large amounts of substances intended for sale," Pitkänemi says.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, smuggling of sports doping substances is a lucrative business in Finland with profit margins of up to 20 times the original price. Smugglers take advantage of the fact that the line between legal or illegal import of drugs that can be used for doping purposes is hazy.

It is possible to legally import a drug with doping potential if the person doing it has a doctor's prescription for the drug, and the drug is legally available in the country it was bought. The maximum dosis that can be imported legally into Finland is based on the daily dose that is indicated in the prescription.

"The problem is that the doctor who has written the prescription might be Chinese or Thai, and the prescription might be written in the doctor's mother tounge. They write the prescriptions that the customer wants. The daily dose indicated in the prescription can be many times that which is common in Finland," Pitkäniemi explains.

If somebody is caught with drugs and a prescription, it is up to a prosecutor to determine if the amount of drugs in this case is a crime. But customs officers would like clearer rules with precise limits on how many drugs can brought legally into the country.

Out of the 72 cases of doping substance smuggling custom officers detected last year, six were classified as aggravated which means that they carry a prison sentence  from four months to four years.