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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

For Consumers

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“Raw Deal” Targets Illegal Steroids

The Food and Drug Administration was among the federal agencies involved in the largest steroid enforcement action in U.S. history—Operation Raw Deal.

The operation resulted in 124 arrests and the dismantling of underground networks dealing in illegal, performance-enhancing substances. In addition, this was an international case targeting the global underground trade of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), and insulin-like growth factor.

Raw Deal culminated Sept. 24, 2007, in a joint investigation by FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. It was accomplished in conjunction with enforcement operations in nine countries, as well as with the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the National Drug Intelligence Center.

The nearly two-year long effort included more than 70 domestic investigations by OCI focusing on HGH traffickers in the United States.

Combined efforts during Operation Raw Deal resulted in the seizure of 56 illegal steroid labs across the United States. In total, 11.4 million steroid dosage units were seized, as well as 242 kilograms of raw steroid powder of Chinese origin.

OCI Director Terry Vermillion says his office " takes this illegal conduct very seriously and fully supports the investigation and ultimate prosecution of these profiteers who endanger the public by formulating and selling unapproved illegal drugs, even when those who would be endangered are willing participants."

Unseemly Motivations

Vermillion says, "These buyers are solely motivated by a desire to gain an unfair competitive advantage by using illegal performance-enhancing substances, and the sellers are not concerned with the buyers' health but with making money."

HGH can be legally prescribed for a limited number of conditions, including hormonal deficiency that causes short stature in children. But it is illegal to distribute HGH products for anti-aging, bodybuilding, or athletic enhancement. The possible long-term side effects of HGH include an increased risk of cancer, as well as nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels.

Operation Raw Deal focused on four aspects of the underground networks:

  • Suppliers and manufacturers of raw materials from other countries.
  • Underground laboratories in the United States , Canada , and Mexico that convert raw materials into a saleable product.
  • U.S.-based Web sites that illegally distribute materials and supplies needed to convert imported raw product into finished product.
  • Internet bodybuilding discussion boards that provide information on how to illicitly use, locate, and discreetly purchase performance-enhancing drugs, including HGH.

This article appears on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Date Posted: October 4, 2007

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