By: Timothy Smith, Esq.

We are all aware of the dangers of steroids.  Police officers who abuse steroids are subject to disciplinary measures, including termination.  The Attorney General’s Office has publicly declared its concern over this issue.

As that office has stated, the misuse of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) by law enforcement officers can lead to serious on-the-job consequences.  For example, lawsuits have been filed asserting that officers abused the civil rights of individuals through excessive force or police brutality. Those violations were potentially attributable to so-called “steroid rage,” that is, an inability to control one’s temper and an impairment of one’s judgment as side effects of steroid usage. 

In addition, while anabolic steroids can be legally prescribed, they are listed by New Jersey statutes as Schedule III Controlled Dangerous Substances.  Anabolic steroids are defined as any drug or hormonal substance chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone, other than estrogens, progestins, corticosteroids and dehydroepiandrosterone.

Given that broad definition of anabolic steroids, it is obvious that officers should be extremely wary of purchasing any advertised substance that claims to boost one’s testosterone levels.

Of course, violations of New Jersey regulations regarding the proper prescription, administration and dispensing of a Schedule III Controlled Dangerous Substance can result in prosecution.  

You should be aware that New Jersey regulations specifically preclude the use of steroids or HGH for the purpose of increasing muscle mass, strength or weight.  Those same regulations also preclude the use of those substances for body building, muscle enhancement, or increasing muscle bulk or strength by a person in good health for the intended purpose of improving performance in any form of exercise, sport or game.  With regard to HCG, it is primarily legally prescribed as a treatment for female infertility.  Its presence in men, therefore, is ordinarily indicative of steroid abuse.  

In general, it can be said that testosterone treatments are medically limited to patients (1) with a testosterone level of less than 300 nanograms/deciliter (“300 ng/dl”) as confirmed by a blood test (2) treatment for the delayed onset of puberty: and (3) for females suffering from metastatic inoperable breast cancer.  Of importance, any officer considering any such treatments must be guided by the opinion of his or her doctor, not this article.  

Any officer undergoing any such doctor-prescribed treatment would be wise to consult his department’s rules and regulations, as well as his union representative.  It is highly likely that the officer has a duty to inform the department of that treatment.  This is particularly true as the Attorney General’s Office has made the recommendation to all police departments that they institute such a self-reporting requirement.  

It would be expected that following any such report, the department would direct the officer to produce a legally obtained prescription, along with a letter from the prescribing physician stating that:  (1) the CDS/steroid is being administered for a medically recognized ailment/condition that was diagnosed following appropriate diagnostic procedures; and (2) the officer is not rendered unfit for duty due to the administration of the CDS/steroid.  It is also expected that should the officer’s treating physician fail or refuse to provide such documentation, the department would then order that the officer undergo an examination by an independent physician or expert.

All of the above drives home the point that the use of any such substances must only be done through a valid medical prescription obtained from a licensed physician.  That prescription must be issued as a result of a truthful medical consultation with that doctor.  The treatment that is prescribed must be done in accordance with New Jersey regulations that narrowly limit the acceptable medical uses of such substances and must not interfere with the officer’s fitness for duty.

In addition, a court case involving Jersey City police officers has determined that police departments may engage in reasonable-suspicion testing of police officers for steroids even though steroids are not specifically listed in the Attorney General’s Drug Testing Policy.  The court reasonably concluded that the state’s compelling interest in assuring that police officers are medically fit for duty justified testing officers for steroids based upon a reasonable individualized suspicion of abuse. 

Under the Attorney General’s Drug Testing Policy, any officer who refuses to submit to a reasonable-suspicion or random-selection drug test will be immediately suspended from the force and disciplinary proceedings aimed at terminating the officer will be instituted.  Upon a finding that the officer did in fact refuse to submit a sample, he or she will be terminated, the officer’s name will be placed in the Central Drug Registry, and he or she will be permanently barred from future law enforcement employment in New Jersey.  The same results will follow for any officer when that officer does submit to testing and the test results are positive for illegal drug use.  Lastly, an officer who tests positive or refuses to submit to a test, who retires or resigns in lieu of disciplinary action, shall also be permanently barred from future law enforcement employment in New Jersey and his or her name will appear on the Central Drug Registry.

All police officers should be aware of the dangers involved in the abuse of anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH) and HCG.  Such substances, unless legally prescribed for particular, narrowly defined, medical purposes, are harmful to one’s health, can endanger the safety of the user and others, and can lead to dismissal from the force.