The criminal liability of health care professionals treating anabolic steroid users under the SpoPA

Diethelm, Dominique; Ege, Gian; Claussen, Malte Christian; Iff, Samuel (2022). The criminal liability of health care professionals treating anabolic steroid users under the SpoPA. Sports Psychiatry, 1(4), pp. 157-166. Hogrefe 10.1024/2674-0052/a000029

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The use of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) is common among gym-goers and fitness athletes, and its usage is on the rise [1, 2]. Among IPEDs, the anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) is the most commonly used drug [3]. Corresponding with the rise of IPED use, some AAS users seek professional advice in case of questions or side effects [4, 5]. In practice, healthcare professionals (HCPs) follow the principle of harm reduction and adhere to medical guidelines regarding optimal treatment for a patient [6]. For the treatment of AAS users, the scientific medical standards frequently suggest prescription of substances prohibited under anti-doping regulations [7]. Could this lead to criminal liability according to Article 22 of the Sports Promotion Act (SpoPA) [8], which criminalizes the prescription or administration of prohibited substances?

In regulated sports competition, adhering to anti-doping rules is crucial to ensure the fairness and integrity of sport. However, only very few individuals who visit the gym for fitness or bodybuilding regularly compete in any form of contest. They mostly use IPEDs to improve their looks and rarely their performance in the gym [9]. The HCP’s harm reduction is therefore very unlikely to influence the fairness and integrity of (professional) sports competitions, yet it is important help for AAS users.

In this paper, we want to discuss the medical considerations behind a treatment for AAS users. Subsequently, we will provide a legal comment on the risks of criminal liability of HCPs according to Article 22 SpoPA if they proceed to treat their patients as recommended by medical guidelines. The legal analysis is based on a case study to ensure relevance and comprehensibility.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

UniBE Contributor:

Iff, Samuel


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services






[229] Bern University Hospital = Inselspital, Universitätsspital Bern




Samuel Iff

Date Deposited:

07 Mar 2023 08:38

Last Modified:

07 Mar 2023 23:27

Publisher DOI:





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