SCENARIO:

It’s a warm summer evening, and you’re zipping down the highway with your best buddy – let’s call him “Mark” – in his new car on the way to a concert in the city. The convertible top is down, and you’ve each got your “guns” hanging out the window. They still feel pumped from the afternoon workout at your favorite gym, and you’ve each had a least a couple of beers before picking up your dates. Life is good.

It seems like you and Mark have been friends forever. You were roommates in college, and you have a lot in common – you like the same kind of clothes, the same books, the same sports teams, and you even like the same kind of girls. You have the same political beliefs too. About the only thing you don’t have in common is that he is a “juicer” while you made the decision to stay clean.

It started when Mark went out for the football team during your freshman year in college and thought he needed an “edge” to make the starting lineup. It worked, too, because he made varsity and won all-conference honors by his sophomore year. You only played intramurals in school, and you liked to win as much as the next guy, but you just didn’t feel right about steroids. It seemed like cheating to you. Sticking yourself in the ass with a needle didn’t exactly appeal to you either. But Mark was still your best friend despite how you felt about it personally.

It wasn’t a big deal anyway. Mark had just made a different choice. After all, steroids weren’t like other drugs. Sure, they were against the law, but since you didn’t personally believe that steroids should be illegal, what Mark did was all right with you.

It would be different if he was on Crack or Crystal Meth. Even marijuana. Well, maybe not marijuana – that was pretty mild stuff. Your feeling was that people should be able to decide what they want to put into their bodies without all these stupid laws. As long as they didn’t hurt anyone else, who cares? You didn’t.

You had heard all the horror stories of how people had allegedly died from using steroids or experienced all kinds of serious side effects but, as far as you were concerned, it was all anecdotal – nobody could prove (to you anyway) that steroids caused these problems. Besides, everyone you knew who took them – like Mark – just seemed to get bigger and stronger.

Well, almost. Mark had been using steroids for about three years now after quitting football and switching to bodybuilding in his senior year. You did notice that he had been gradually losing his hair. You thought they called it “male pattern baldness” or something like that. The rest of his family all had full heads of hair so it, apparently, wasn’t hereditary but, hey, what’s a little hair if you’ve got big muscles!?! You thought that was a pretty good trade-off.

You remembered, too, that during Mark’s first couple of years on the juice he had a major problem with zits – really gross (especially on his back and shoulders) – but he seemed to have outgrown them after a while. He lost his temper sometimes too, but except for the time he trashed your apartment and punched his girlfriend, he was cool.

Mark had won a couple of big amateur bodybuilding contests since he quit football and recently qualified for his pro card. Now he was ready for the big time and training to win the Olympia. He was quickly becoming famous and had already appeared on a few popular magazine covers. He was your best friend, and you liked hanging around with him. It made you feel important.

Suddenly you both catch a glimpse of a flashing red light in the rear view mirror and hear three short beeps from siren of a patrol car behind you. Oops! It didn’t feel like you were going that fast. The new car had been cruising so smoothly that you had no sense of the speed.

Mark flips on his turn signal and merges cautiously to the right before finally pulling over to the side of the road and turning off the ignition. He stares straight ahead watching in the mirror as the patrol car pulls up behind him and stops.

Minutes pass. What’s taking so long? The patrolman seems to be talking to someone on his radio and taking some notes. There are no plates on the car yet – only the paper registration posted in the rear window – so maybe that’s why he pulled you over.

You glance back over your left shoulder and see the patrolman emerging from his car. He walks toward the convertible looking serious. “May I see your driver’s license and registration, please,” he says matter-of-factly to Mark as he appears at the driver’s side window.

He watches as Mark pulls his wallet from his hip pocket, takes out his driver’s license, and reaches across your lap to open the glove compartment. As Mark rummages through the glove compartment for his registration, a syringe falls out onto the floor between your feet. You instinctively try to cover it with your feet as Mark pulls back in a wide sweeping motion, hoping the officer didn’t see anything, and hands his license and registration through the window.

Uh, oh! Your heart is in your mouth. Gulp! Did he see it or didn’t he see it?

“Do you realize that you were going over the speed limit back there and weaving in and out of traffic?” asks the officer. “Have you been drinking?” he asks without waiting for a response.

“Well, yes, we each had a couple of beers. But that’s all. I didn’t realize I was going that fast,” stammers Mark.

“Please wait here.”

The patrolman turns and walks back to his car with Mark’s license and registration. Within minutes another patrol car pulls up in front of your car and a third tails in behind the first officer’s car. Their lights are flashing.

Three different patrolmen exit from their cars and converge around the convertible. The first officer appears back at the driver’s window.

“Would you please step out of the car? Both of you.”

Despite your protests, you are both quickly bent forward over the hood of the convertible facing each other, frisked and handcuffed. Mark’s arms are so big that they can barely get his hands behind his back. You can tell that he is really uncomfortable in that position. He isn’t very flexible anyway. They find two little blue pills in one of his pants pockets and place them in a small plastic bag.

You can smell the beer on Mark’s breath, and you bet that they can probably smell it on you too. But the officers seem to be focused on something else.

They begin a careful search of the car – beginning with the syringe on the floor in front of the passenger’s seat. Looks like the first officer did see it after all.

They find a vial of Deca Durabolin in the glove compartment together with a bottle of little blue pills – similar to the ones they found in Mark’s pocket – which you later find out were Methanabol tablets, a form of Dianabol. Even though you had never actually seen them before, you knew what they were. Guys at the gym talked about them all the time just like you talked about your favorite beer or aftershave.

When the search moved to the trunk you could hear two of the officers exclaim loudly, “Well, what do we have here?” as they open the trunk door.

The officers pull both of you around to the back of the car where you see several boxes full of syringes tucked in one corner of the trunk under an old sweat shirt.

“Yea, so what?” says Mark. “I’m a bodybuilder, and it’s my own personal stash.” He’s acting a little cocky under the circumstances. Maybe it’s just the beer talking. Still, you’re surprised by his attitude.

“I’ve never seen it before,” you say. And you mean it.

“Well, we’ll take you both downtown and let them straighten it out,” says one of the officers. Minutes later you are both placed in the back seat of one of the patrol cars headed for jail.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF THIS SCENARIO?

If you are arrested in a car and drugs are found in the car – or on the person you are with – you can be arrested for possession. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are guilty, but you can still be arrested.

According to the federal Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 (expanded in 2004), anabolic steroids are classified as Schedule III drugs in the same family as barbiturates, LSD precursors, veterinary tranquilizers, and narcotic painkillers. They are illegal to possess without a medical prescription – period!

Simple possession of anabolic steroids without a prescription is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first offense. It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with it. It’s a felony. There are also additional state penalties in most states, and you could potentially be subject to prosecution under either or both federal and state guidelines.

If Mark has ever been convicted of previous possession (and he probably hasn’t told even you, his best friend), he could be subject to further penalties. If it’s his second offense, he could receive imprisonment of at least 15 days and up to two years, and a minimum fine of $2,500. If he has had two or more such previous convictions, he could face imprisonment of not less than 90 days but not more than three years, and a minimum fine of $5,000.

Again, these penalties are just for possession. If intent to sell is established for either you or for Mark, the penalties are far greater, and it is a federal offense, no matter what. If either of you is convicted of selling steroids or even possession with intent to sell, you could be subject to up to five years in prison (plus supervised release) and/or a $250,000 fine. If Mark has been previously convicted of selling or possession with intent to sell, he could face up to ten years in prison (plus parole) and/or greater fines.

If death or bodily injury occurs as a result of the sale or distribution of anabolic steroids, the penalties really get hairy. You don’t want to go there.

After all of this, even if you are proven to be innocent, you will have already been handcuffed, arrested, fingerprinted, jailed, and arraigned before a judge in open court. You’ll get your one phone call, of course, and the experience will definitely cost you some legal fees. How much did your attorney charge the last time you hired him? $250 an hour? $400 an hour? It won’t be cheap.

If you are found guilty? Well, that’s another story.

Mark? Well, he can probably kiss off his new convertible because it will likely be forfeited along with the drugs they found in the car. And, if he is convicted (which is likely since SOMEONE has to ultimately take the fall for possessing the steroids), he will also have a difficult – if not impossible – time getting a license for many different kinds of work. Considering that 3 of every10 jobs in this country require a license, that could be formidable. But that’s O.K. because Mark is going to get rich as a professional bodybuilder, so it probably won’t matter. No license required.

In the meantime, you have proven to yourself once again that steroids don’t hurt anyone. Mark is still your best friend, but you’ll check the glove compartment next time he gives you a ride – just in case. Hope he at least helped you with your legal fees.