Drug-Free Sport clamps down on steroid syndicates

The SA Institute for Drug Free Sport has announced it is to implement an Anti-Doping Intelligence System to aggressively clamp down on SA’s criminal steroid syndicates who control the trafficking of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in SA.

This is according to SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport CEO, Khalid Galant, who says that trafficking of illegal performance-enhancing drugs is big business in SA.

“Anecdotal evidence and drug arrests points to substantial involvement of criminal syndicates who are manufacturing illegal steroids in labs and trafficking steroids and using the sale of steroids and other illicit medicines as a means to launder ill-gotten gains,” he says.

“The return on investment is high and risks are considered substantially lower to the syndicates when manufacturing and trafficking steroids, as opposed to smuggling drugs such as cocaine, heroin or manufacturing methamphetamine.”

SA a 'steroid destination'

“Steroids and the amphetamine classified drugs remain popular performance-enhancing drugs predominantly due to its cross-over appeal with athletes, body-builders, security establishment (nightclub bouncers) and celebrity clientele,” he explains.

Galant says that South Africa is in danger of becoming a renowned “steroid destination’ for Africa and other parts of the world with some of the busiest ports in South Africa, including Cape Town and Durban and is therefore very vulnerable to the entry of illicit drugs into the country.

Galant says that criminal syndicates control a significant proportion of world sport and Interpol and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have confirmed the involvement of criminal syndicates with steroid trafficking and estimates that there is more money made in trafficking illegal performance-enhancing drugs than in dealing heroin, and called for world sport to clamp down on criminal gangs, at the recent Tackling Doping in Sport 2011 conference at Twickenham, UK.

In order to address the issue in SA, the Institute for Drug Free Sport is working towards establishing an infrastructure for a South African Anti-Doping System that Galant says, will augment SA’s law enforcement system to tackle the drug proliferation at its roots causes, namely manufacturing, trafficking and cross-border trade.

SA doping controllers trained overseas

This week SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport sent two officials, the Doping Control Manager (DCM) and a Doping Control Officer (DCO) who is also a detective with the Office of Serious Crimes, to Canberra, Australia, on an intense training course to learn the ins and outs on the implementation of an Anti-Doping Intelligence System, hosted by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency.

“Upon the return from the training course, we will convene a forum with the Medicines Control Council and the National Detectives Office of Serious Crimes to put together an infrastructure,” says Galant.

He says that the initiative will primarily target the network of steroid dealers and manufacturers that operate with impunity out of illegal laboratories, health clubs and sports supplement store fronts.

"In 2010 and 2011 we have a caught a record number of athletes for various doping offences and while these athletes often have to serve bans from sport, the suppliers and dealers evade any sanction or punishment."

Most products unsafe for consumption

“The criminal betting syndicates involved in match fixing, money laundering and illegal gambling are the same syndicates that are trafficking performance-enhancing drugs,” he adds. “We are determined to go after them and cut off supply.”

With regard to what else can be done to clamp down on these syndicates in South Africa, Galant says that SA police and customs have to be better trained in differentiating between substances such as steroids and Erythropoietin (EPO) from its supply through legitimate pharmaceutical supply chains as opposed to supply and trafficking through unauthorised means.

It is anticipated that at least 25% of the world’s pharmaceutical products emanate from the black market. They are non-sanitary and potentially dangerous. Moreover, some are readily available through the Internet.

The substances are from raw materials delivered from the East, and put together in ‘kitchen laboratories,’ unregulated and non-sanitised. They do not just go to elite athletes. They also go to high school students.

“It is important to protect our athletes, especially high school athletes, who in many cases are unknowingly purchasing illegal steroids and are under the false impression they are taking a permissible sports supplement,” Galant adds.

(Press release, May 2011)

Read more:
WADA cracks down on banned drugs

Your guide to banned substances

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