A new bill in the U.S. Senate proposes to regulate selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) by placing the compounds in the same category as anabolic steroids.
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) introduced legislation (S.2895) that would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to add SARMs to the list of Schedule III controlled substances, which includes anabolic steroids. Congress added prohormones to the same schedule in 2014 after passing the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act, which was signed into law on Dec. 18, 2014.
Some bodybuilders and athletes have used SARMs to achieve anabolic results previously gained by steroid or prohormone use. However, SARMs are an investigational new drug (IND). Ostarine (aka enobosarm), developed by pharmaceutical firm GTx to counter muscle wasting and osteoporosis, was the most common SARM sold to sports consumers.
Earlier this year, sports nutrition firm Blackstone Labs and its founders PJ Braun and Aaron Singerman were indicted for selling illegal substances, including SARMs and prohormones.
“By placing SARMs on the same schedule as other anabolic steroids, we’re ensuring a safer and more transparent marketplace,” Grassley said in a press release. “Most of these products are being sold as dietary supplements when they actually work like other steroids. This should not be the case. SARMs need to go through the proper channel to guarantee safety and efficacy. Consumers deserve to know any risks associated with these substances, and the correct scheduling coupled with further DEA oversight will ensure that.”
This isn’t the first time such a bill was introduced. Whitehouse joined with former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to cosponsor similar legislation last year, before Hatch retired.
The renewed legislative effort was welcomed by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), which previously issued a safety alert reminding SARMs are not dietary supplements and launched its #SARMSCanHarm campaign to raise awareness among consumers, including bodybuilders and athletes, about the dangers of SARMs.
“This dangerous class of ingredients poses a serious threat to consumer safety, as well as the integrity of the legitimate dietary supplement marketplace, and so we call on the entire Congress to take immediate action to get this legislation enacted into law,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, in a statement.
Has the SARMs threat waned?
While the 14-count indictment against Blackstone Labs is still an ongoing prosecution and sports nutrition company Enhanced Athlete is seemingly still under investigation for selling SARMs and other compounds, SARMs might not be as popular for anabolic benefits as they once were.
“From a timing perspective, it’s like swinging at a ball that the catcher’s already throwing back to the pitcher,” said sports nutrition and steroid attorney Rick Collins, founding partner with Collins Gann McCloskey & Barry, in an email for this article. “The prevalence of SARMs on the dietary supplement market has petered out. It’s no longer such a big issue as it was.”
Collins noted existing laws can be and have been used by FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI) to prosecute parties illegally selling SARMs.
“I’ve been involved in several felony cases in which individuals illegally selling these compounds, either as misbranded dietary supplements or fraudulently as ‘research chemicals,’ have been targeted by FDA-OCI and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice,” he explained. “The government can charge SARMs sellers with counts of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to mislead FDA, or even with counts of mail fraud and money laundering.”
He further questioned the placement of SARMs into the same statutory framework with heroin and cocaine.
“To be a controlled substance in Schedule III, the abuse of a drug must lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence,” the lawyer reasoned. “I’m not aware of any science to support that.”
Another concern is how the proposed law would impact the public. According to Collins, once a compound becomes a controlled substance, law enforcement has the authority to arrest, prosecute and convict anyone in possession of the drug, regardless of amount.
“Law-abiding consumers who bought a SARM product before the new bill would become federal drug criminals if they remain in possession after the bill is passed,” he explained. “Of course, if the bill passes in Congress, individual states would likely amend their laws to comport with it, so local police officers and state troopers would then have the authority to arrest and prosecute people for possession in their cars or homes. I’m thinking Congress should think this through a bit more.”