Despite their risks, steroids are very common among amateur bodybuilders. Which makes the fight of the prosecutors against the illegal means so complicated.
Kai Gräber is a man who likes his job. He doesn’t say that, but whoever listens to him must almost inevitably arrive at this assessment. When the chief public prosecutor talks about how he and his colleagues found out about one or the other evildoer, his eyes flash. The hunting fever is almost palpable. In focus: doping sinners.
Gräber heads the Department XV of the Public Prosecutor’s Office Munich I. In 2009 there was a premiere there, Germany’s first public prosecutor’s office with a focus on the fight against doping started its work. Since then, Gräber & Co. have worked their way through 7000 preliminary proceedings, most of which have been played in the testosterone-impregnated environment of bodybuilders and strength athletes. In Germany, anabolic steroids are for the most part covered by the prescription ordinance and can therefore only be legally acquired by medical prescription. Violations are prosecuted under the Medicines Act and the Anti-Doping Act.
The drugs are often manufactured in illegal laboratories
Graves regularly experience what this looks like. In dark cellars, prosecutors and police have already excavated dozens of underground laboratories. What they found there had very little to do with how one imagines a chemical laboratory to be, says Gräber. Hygiene doesn’t matter. Nor does the purity of the ingredients. ”
It’s amazing what people inject themselves with,” says Gräber. “Some of the stuff clumps in such a way that it hardly goes through the cannula. But they still press it in.” On pictures you can see ampoules with greasy liquids that you don’t want to touch with gloves, let alone spray.
Chief Public Prosecutor Kai Gräber investigates doping offenders
In bodybuilder circles, however, striving for muscles is usually more important than health. Almost nobody gets away without side effects. The consequences can be devastating and range from hair loss to fatty liver or liver tumours. Steroids can lead to feminization of the body. The testicles shrink and the heart expands unnaturally.
“There are plenty of good reasons why steroids are forbidden,” says Gräber.
What’s more, nobody knows exactly what’s in the products from underground laboratories. In some cases, for example, the dosage of the active substance is significantly higher than in comparable products from pharmacies.
The illegal doping trade in steroids is booming
One of the most spectacular cases from this milieu ended up in court in Augsburg last year. The accusation: illegal trade in prescription drugs and doping substances in sports. Five men from the greater Berlin area and one woman from Augsburg had been involved in a lively trade in anabolic steroids in the German capital. According to graves, the underground laboratory delivered about 150,000 ampoules and 280,000 capsules of anabolic steroids in the four years until it was discovered. The perpetrators were brazen enough to advertise their products on the Internet. They had a total of 50 different preparations on offer. The profit was hundreds of thousands of euros. The ingredients were ordered by the gang in China. The 1st criminal chamber in Augsburg imposed several prison sentences. The principal offender is imprisoned for six years.
But this kind of doping has nothing to do with professional top-class sport. 85 percent of the cases that involve graves come from amateur sport, preferably in the field of bodybuilding. The 2015 Anti-Doping Act has not changed this either. Gräber is cautious about its effectiveness.
“Neither does it benefit us, nor does it hinder our work.”
The law, which was enforced against the massive resistance of organised sport, was intended to initiate an effective means against doping in top-class sport. That is the theory. In practice, the law has a crucial weakness: it does not have a leniency programme. Without such a regulation, however, he cannot offer anything to potential whistleblowers, says Gräber.
“So why should anyone give us tips if they are incriminating themselves?
In addition, there is no “de facto” cooperation with the sports associations. They don’t want us,” says Gräber. Among other things, he felt this when he visited the Chiemgau Arena in Ruhpolding in the run-up to the 2012 Biathlon World Championships. “There’s no interest in working with us there.