England

Steroids sold illegally via Facebook, BBC investigation finds

  • 8 February 2016
  • From the section England
Prostasia Official Facebook page Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Prostasia, which has at least two Facebook pages, is one of dozens of online sellers found by the BBC

Dealers offering illegal performance-enhancing drugs that can cause severe side effects are selling their products via Facebook, the BBC has discovered.

Anabolic steroids are used to enhance athletic performance and increase muscle mass but can cause heart and liver problems.

The BBC found a product called Prostasia is advertised on Facebook, along with branded merchandise.

Facebook said it tackled any "illegal activity" as soon as it knew about it.

Anabolic steroids - which are banned in professional sport - mimic the effects of testosterone but used at unsafe levels can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks.

It is a crime to make, advertise or sell the Class C drug. The offence carries an unlimited fine and can result in a prison sentence.

However, a BBC Inside Out investigation found dealers trading online across the UK.

Posing as a user, its reporter became a member of 30 closed Facebook groups dedicated to selling steroids.

Media captionBBC investigation finds class C drugs are being sold on social media
Image copyright Prostasia promo video
Image caption Prostasia's promotional video contains images of bodybuilders

The steroid testosterone propionate was purchased online from Jon Elliott whose online status says he is based in Northampton.

When tested in a laboratory it was also found to contain the steroid testosterone enantate, which was not on the labelling.

Former user's story

A former steroid user, who did not wish to be named, told Inside Out that his liver became inflamed and the left ventricle of his heart was enlarged as a result of taking steroids.

He added: "My thyroids, according to my doctor, were on the verge of packing up which would have required me to take medication for the rest of my life."

He also suffered paranoia, depression and problems with work and relationships.

"Paranoia was one of the big things for me. I convinced myself something was happening that was not happening," he said.

Anca Frinculescu, a pharmacist at the Tic Tac Lab, said "[This is] dangerous because you never know what you buy and you never know the strength.

"There are plenty of side effects that can appear after use."

The seller, Mr Elliott, who trades online under his own name, was confronted by Inside Out. He denied selling the drugs, claiming his Facebook account had been hacked.

Media captionIllegal trade in steroids on Facebook uncovered
Image copyright Prostasia promo video
Image caption Prostasia is sold with branding and labelling that could give the illusion that it is a legitimate product
Image copyright Facebook
Image caption One Prostasia user has had its branding tattooed on her neck
Image caption Frazer Craig declined to comment when he was told he had sold illegal drugs to a BBC reporter

Some sellers have created a brand, like a legitimate business.

Prostasia has UK and US sales pages and a promotional video. Users can buy branded hoodies, mugs and mobile phone covers.

It also boasts that a female "sponsored athlete" has had its logo tattooed on to her neck.

Anabolic steroids

  • The Class C drug can be injected or taken as tablets
  • There are between 60 and 100 different types and though it is illegal to sell or distribute them, using them is not against the law
  • They can enhance physical performance and stimulate muscle growth but potential side effects range from acne and hair loss to depression, liver and heart problems

One of its sellers Craig James - real name Frazer Craig - sold steroids to Inside Out.

When approached by the BBC at his home in Sutton Coldfield with evidence he was selling the drug illegally, he said: "You haven't, I'm sorry", and declined to comment further.

Bjorn Otto Peacock, from Essex, produces Prostasia merchandise and advertises the drug online.

"I don't know nothing about that," he told the BBC.

"I just get orders for hoodies and stuff, they send me pictures and writing they want and I print them off."

He denied he had used Facebook to advertise Prostasia for sale or posted photos of himself with the drug.

A Facebook spokesman said: "Our community standards make it clear that we prohibit the sale of illegal items on our site.

"We have built a vast reporting infrastructure that allows anyone to report things that break these rules.

"As soon as we are alerted to such illegal activity we work quickly to remove it, as we have done here."

Inside Out will be broadcast on BBC One in the east of England at 19:30 GMT on Monday and will be available on the BBC iPlayer

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