The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has announced a new deal with China that will allegedly shut down the chemical companies responsible for the worldwide supply of raw anabolic steroid powder. The Chinese chemical companies are responsible for producing the overwhelming majority of the steroid powder used by international underground laboratories (UGLs) to manufacture black market steroid products.
David Howman, the Director General for WADA, celebrated the potential of the new agreement in a statement released by WADA on September 23, 2015.
“There is tremendous potential in sharing information and investigating the trafficking of doping substances — with organizations that have the power to reduce and eliminate the illegal manufacture and supply of PEDs and raw materials that result in PEDs — in a country that faces a problem with the illegal sale and exportation of banned substances,” Howman said.
The agreement is a “memorandum of understanding” (MoU) between WADA and China’s sports ministry, the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC). Under the agreement, WADA and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) will share any intelligence it acquires about steroid-producing Chinese chemical companies to law enforcement officials in China.
If anyone thinks this will have any meaningful impact of the flow of steroid powders out of China, they are sorely mistaken. A memorandum of understanding is not a legally-enforceable agreement that compels Chinese authorities to actually do anything to further WADA’s agenda. And without the international force of law, the agreement amounts to a little more than a public relations campaign by WADA to convince the public that it is making inroads in its war on steroids.
The alleged crackdown on steroid raw materials in China is said to involve Chinese police, customs, Chinese Food and Drug Administration and the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CADA). But even Howman admitted the MOU has little substance as the details of the cooperation have yet to be ironed out.
“It is a bit early to say what those specifics will be but everybody in the room today agreed that we should move together. I think it is a very important day we have developed partnership and developed an understanding of each other’s position. so we can do that equally,” said Howman.
The MOU comes on the heels of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) September 1st announcement of “a nationwide series of enforcement actions targeting every level of the global underground trade of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, the vast majority of which are manufactured and trafficked from underground labs in China.”
WADA was a high-profile partner in the DEA-led investigations in both the United States and abroad. The investigation was codenamed Operation Cyber Juice in the United States and Operation Underground abroad. Both domestic and international operations explicitly identified Chinese chemical companies (and their raw steroid powders) as the root of the international steroid distribution problem.
WADA’s recent announcement of the MOU with China seeks to capitalize on the publicity generated by the announcement of the major DEA-led investigations.
However, any student of the history of the illicit steroid trade can tell you that this is not the first time a major DEA-led international investigation identified Chinese chemical companies as a major problem. And it is not the first time that DEA officials provided intel to Chinese officials in hopes they would use it to shut down the offending chemical companies.
In 2007, the major DEA-led investigation codenamed Operation Raw Deal also targeted Chinese chemical companies too. The feds explicitly identified at least 37 Chinese chemical companies by name and claimed they had the Chinese government’s cooperation in putting a stop to the flow of steroid powder.
We all know how that worked out. The black market is flooded with more steroid UGLs than ever before. And practically of them are still getting their raw materials from China.
Why should anyone expect Chinese officials to be any more cooperative in 2015? A gentlemen’s agreement – that’s essentially what the MOU is considered – between a morally-guided anti-doping group and the Chinese government is doomed for failure.
Ransom, I. (September 23, 2015). WADA signs agreement with China to tackle drug rings. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/23/us-doping-china-idUSKCN0RN0CA20150923
Xinhua. (September 23, 2015). China, WADA to work together in fighting illegal raw material import, export. Retrieved from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-09/19/c_134640407.htm