February 10, 2007

Stemming Steroid Growth

Stemming steroid growth: A not-so modest proposal. By Chris Arsenault
Published Thursday February 8th, 2007

When police seized significant amounts of anabolic steroids during a January 28 drug bust, it didn't come as a surprise to personal trainer Rob MacGougan. "I'd definitely say there is more of this stuff [steroids] going around now than there was five years ago," said MacGougan in an interview from Global Gym in Moncton. "Guys are hooked on trying to get bigger and bigger."

Police who seized the steroids in Fredericton as part of a major sting operation deemed 'operation jelly bean,' don't have information on whether steroid use is rising in New Brunswick, according to Sgt. Luc Breton, the RCMP's Drug and Organized Crime Awareness Co-ordinator.

"I don't know where they [anabolic steroids] are coming from," says Sgt. Breton. "But, if you see someone going to the gym and six months later they are three times the size, you don't need to be a genius to see what's going on." Steroids, and the short-term muscle growth they instigate, are typically associated with machismo: guys wanting to be big, strong, and, well, manly.

According to data from the University of Ottawa, the not-so-manly side-effects of roid use include, "infertility, shrinking of testicles, and growth of breasts."

Rob MacGougan can often tell when fitness buffs are using the drugs; they become, "short-tempered and start throwing around the weights."

To combat the prevalence of steroid use in some circles, Global Gym and other fitness centres, have outlawed them.

"It's right in our contract, if you are found selling or using illegal steroids, you get kicked out," says McGougan.

"We try to used a balanced approach with prevention, education, enforcement and treatment," says Sgt. Breton, adding, "there are so many drugs out there, steroids are just the flavour of the day-to-day."

Along with the undisclosed quantity of steroids, operation jelly-bean netted: 1.2 pounds of cocaine, in excess of 55 pounds of marijuana, large quantities of what are believed counterfeit prescription pills, and more than $350,000 in cash.

"Organized crime wants to make money to supply their needs," said Sgt. Breton. "Cocaine and anabolic steroids are two of the ways they are making profit." And make no mistake, these are profitable times for organized crime.

Illegal drugs constitute, "the third biggest global commodity in cash terms after oil and the arms trade," according to a 2004 report from the Independent of London.

Canada is not officially at war with drugs, however police forces around the country clearly spend a lot of time and energy fighting the trade in narcotics.

"It doesn't matter what tactics or strategy you use, you have to modify things as you go," says Sgt. Breton when discussing the best way to address the problem.

A growing chorus of law-enforcement officials around the world are calling for fundamental modifications in anti-drug strategy.

Military historian Gwynne Dyer recently offered a bold, if not entirely new or original prescription: legalize all drugs and make the socalled "hard" ones available to addicts free upon approval from a doctor.

According to Dyer, this would cause the, "collapse of the criminal empires that have been built on the international trade in illegal drugs, which is now estimated to be worth $500 billion a year. That's exactly what happened to the criminal empires that were founded on bootlegging when alcohol prohibition was ended in the United States in 1933."

Today's prohibitionists would argue that legalization will lead to increased use and abuse. But criminalization of the drug problem hasn't seriously decreased availability, increased price or decreased purity of illegal drugs. By all reasonable accounts, the current strategy simply isn't working.

Like the drug trade itself, steroid stimulated guys in New Brunswick are getting bigger. It's about time society made some big changes when dealing with the problem.

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