Inside Out East, the regional news and current affairs program produced by the BBC, recently conducted a five-month investigation into the sale of anabolic steroids on Facebook. BBC's Jo Taylor went undercover to “infiltrate” secret Facebook groups that sold steroids domestically to residents based in the United Kingdom. The episode first aired on February 8, 2016.
“Now first, we're exposing a new kind of dealer,” said host David Whiteley to introduce the segment. “These dealers are selling branded goods with promotional videos and so-called sponsored athletes. And yet, their trade is illegal. And taking what they are selling can be fatal.”
The BBC did not have any evidence that anabolic steroids were fatal. To prove its point about the deadly consequences of performance- and image-enhancing drugs, Taylor interviewed Sharon Ayres, the mother of one such fatal victim. The only problem was that her son – Sean Cleathero – didn't die from steroid use. He died of a DNP overdose.
Nonetheless, any viewer who watched the show would have assumed that it was a steroid-related death. This was clearly the intent of BBC producers.
The episode focused on the ease by which anabolic steroids could be purchased on Facebook. BBC's Taylor pretended to be “Jay Green” and used this alias to join as many as 30 private Facebook groups set up by UK-based steroid dealers. These groups went by names such as “Venom Juice 24/7 sales” and “Juicy Gains – Fuelled by Prostastia”.
Taylor purchased testosterone propionate from a Facebook member who went by the (fictitious) name of Jon Elliott. Taylor took the vial to Tic Tac Communications for identification. Tic Tac pharmacist Anca Frinculescu reported that the sample did contain testosterone propionate but it was also contaminated with testosterone enanthate.
"This is dangerous because you never know what you buy and you never know the strength,” Frinculescu said.
Taylor emphasized that the uncertainty of the contents of underground steroid products was one of the main dangers.
“The danger of that is that you don't know exactly what you are getting whether it's mixed with anything else, whether it's the right strength, or the right dosage,” Taylor warned.
The BBC Inside Out investigation highlighted one specific UK-domestic UGL named Prostasia Labs. Prostasia Labs promoted itself as a legitimate business on Facebook with separate U.S. and U.K. based sales pages, professionally-produced promotional videos and branded merchandise such as hoodies, mugs and mobile phone covers.
The BBC even tracked down of its Facebook sellers who went by the pseudonym Craig James. BBC revealed that his real name was Frazier Craig. The BBC producers even tracked him down to his home and confronted him on-camera to ask him about his illegal steroid dealing on Facebook. He obviously declined to comment.
The BBC also located the man who manufactured the promotional apparel for Prostasia Labs. It even claimed to have evidence that he promoted the sale of Prostasia products on his Facebook page.
Bjorn Otto Peacock, from Essex, admitted producing Prostasia merchandise but denied having any idea it was being used to sell steroids.
"I don't know nothing about that," Peacock told the BBC. "I just get orders for hoodies and stuff, they send me pictures and writing they want and I print them off."
The moral of the story is: don't sell steroids – or at least don't sell steroids on Facebook.