The United States Congress just passed the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act (DASCA) of 2014. President Obama is expected to sign DASCA into law after a House version of the legislation was passed last Thursday on the Senate floor by unanimous consent. The legislation empowers the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to crack down on dangerous substances that resemble anabolic steroids on DEA’s current list of controlled substances and that have been marketed as dietary supplements.

DASCA will place 25 known designer anabolic steroids on DEA’s list of controlled substances and grants the U.S. Attorney General authority to temporarily schedule new designer anabolic steroids on the same list. The legislation also creates new penalties for distributing, importing or manufacturing anabolic steroids under false labels, lawmakers said.

DEA assisted in crafting the bill, including identifying the 25 new substances on the list. Although the performance-enhancing substances will fall under Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, none of them have medicinal benefits, a DEA spokesperson said.

A Senate bill was sponsored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Reps. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) and Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) introduced legislation in the House. The Senate passed H.R. 4771 on Thursday, Dec. 11.

Hatch and Whitehouse have said anabolic steroids are made by reverse engineering illegal steroids and slightly changing their chemical composition, avoiding placement on DEA's list of controlled substances.

“The world’s top athletes are subject to strict guidelines and rigorous testing to prevent the use of steroids, as they should be," Whitehouse said Friday in a statement. “At the same time, many American citizens may be unknowingly dosing themselves with these harmful substances."

DEA has authority to place steroids and other substances on its list of controlled substances, but it must go through an arduous and potentially years-long process that requires the consent of the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services (HHS) through FDA. For instance, DEA this year moved hydrocodone combination products from Schedule III to Schedule II after receiving the recommendation of HHS. But that rule was published 15 years after a physician filed a petition with DEA requesting reclassification, citing the potential for abuse of the products.

DASCA grants the Attorney General authority to temporarily schedule additional anabolic steroids that have recently emerged if he makes certain findings. DEA must notify HHS of such an order. The Attorney General also has authority to publish a list of products that he has determined contain an anabolic steroid and are not labeled in accordance with federal law.

That section narrowly defines anabolic steroids, homing in on products that are marketed to promote muscle growth or a pharmacological effect similar to testosterone. A substance that is not on the controlled substances list is excluded from the definition of anabolic steroids if it is an herb or other botanical, the substance is a dietary ingredient under the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), and it is not anabolic or androgenic. But a company that claims an exemption bears the burden of proof claiming it.