Trafficking in steroids is now so big that mobsters in Europe are making more money out of body-building drugs than some narcotics, a senior
anti-doping official said today.
David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping agency (WADA), said the so-called gym culture among people wanting to look good had become a
major health and policing issue in the world.
"Trafficking in steroids is now seen as a more lucrative task for those who work in the underworld than trafficking in some of the more familiar
social drugs," Howman told reporters today.
He said he was relying on information given to him by Interpol, the international police network.
Although WADA is primarily concerned with sports doping, it is working closely with Interpol to help prevent international trade in steroids and other
muscle-building drugs like peptides and human growth hormone (HGH).
"Steroids are getting to the stage of being too available. Therefore the temptations and the risks that our athletes are taking become (greater)," he
said. "Interpol are extremely worried about it because of the health effect it has on kids and the potential damage. "It is much bigger than an
international sports issue. We are talking about a major health issue. "There's a whole series of people who want this stuff because they think they
can enhance their looks. "It's not just men, it's women as well. "It is a gym culture issue."
Doctors say people risk permanent damage from taking steroids, many of which are derived from animal products.
Health problems include heart disease, stroke, tumours, shrinking genitals and mood swings like depression and "roid rage".
Howman said the trade in steroids was a major subject at a meeting of European sports ministers he attended in Budapest earlier this month.
He believes the way Australia has dealt with the issue may, with refinements, become a model for other countries.
"Australia has got border controls relating to these sort of substances. Not many other countries do."
He said legislation brought in by the federal government five years ago was a "pretty strong start."
"I think that's a model. I know it hasn't worked as they may have wanted it to, but I think it can be developed and shown to other countries."