The use of performance-enhancing drugs is not a problem confronting the world of international sports alone. It may also explain how the skinny teenager next door got bulging biceps and rippling abdomen muscles in a matter of weeks. But don't forget to blame gymnasium instructors too.
Across Delhi, gymnasiums offer anabolic steroids to teenagers who want a muscular body but are unwilling to follow a strict regimen for several years. A gym pushing anabolic steroids is illegal. Also, these medicines are known to cause serious health risks in teenagers.
A recent raid by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) on importers of food supplements who had been evading duty uncovered a well-oiled racket. The importers were found smuggling in steroids and supplying them to gyms in Delhi, Jaipur and Bangalore.
The Hindustan Times visited some gyms and found the abuse was not only rampant but the gyms were also very upfront about the business. “Possibly because the laws to control the open sale of such medicines are not very strict. Also, there is no regulatory framework to monitor the activities of these gyms," said a Delhi Police officer.
Oxydrene, a popular gymnasium for residents of Patparganj housing societies, is one seller of such steroids. The gym is thronged with dozens of teenagers, many of them wafer-thin but driven by a desire to have six-pack abs in a short time.
It proudly displays packets of food supplements, and with these are kept "body-building medicines". "These are expensive but amazingly effective," the gym instructor said helpfully. But isn't the open sale of such 'medicines' illegal? "Everybody is into this," he said.
In his early 20s, the instructor had a face full of pimples and a bald patch on his head — a clear result of steroid abuse.
The term 'medicine' is a euphemism for steroids. The Drugs Controller of India bans the open sale of such drugs. But hundreds of gyms across the city sell these steroids, most of which are smuggled in from Thailand.
“They are nothing but testosterone, the male sex hormone. That some of these steroids are for racehorses — and that even the rest can be harmful for healthy humans — is never told to a teenager or a young athlete,” said a DRI officer.
In the last week's raid by DRI's Delhi Zonal Unit, the agency seized thousands of ampoules and pills of such steroids.
It had information that these importers were evading paying duty to the government.
The DRI also discovered that these importers were smuggling in anabolic steroids, mostly by the air route from Thailand, for the past three years. The medicines seized included Ilium holbedal, given to horses. Others were Testosterone Cypionate which costs Rs 250 per injection and Crimbtroll which costs Rs 2,300 per bottle.
Doctors says these steroids are prescription drugs given to anaemic people or men with low testosterone and even blood-pressure patients. They advise them for teenagers.
"The abuse of steroids by teenagers is a health risk, and that's what parents need to be alert about," said the officer.
Meanwhile, the punishment for smuggling steroids remains lenient -- at best a monetary penalty.