It is illegal to purchase, sell or possess anabolic steroids in the United States without a valid prescription as of Feb. 27, 1991, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Division. The first offense of simple possession of the drug carries a minimum $1,000 fine and a maximum penalty of one year in prison. Physicians may prescribe anabolic steroids for valid medical reasons, including breast cancer, loss of testicular function, low red blood cell count and delayed puberty.
Veterinarians administer steroids to animals, including cattle and horses, for legitimate functions, such as encouraging feed efficiency and improving weight gain, notes the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Division. Federal law classifies anabolic steroids as Schedule III controlled substances under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990. Under the law as of 2015, a five-year prison term and a $250,000 fine is the maximum penalty for anabolic steroid trafficking if it is the defendant's first felony drug offense. The law doubles the fine and the imprisonment time for a second felony drug conviction. Some states have passed criminal laws governing anabolic steroid possession.
Any drug or hormone that promotes muscle growth and is pharmacologically and chemically related to testosterone is an anabolic steroid, explains the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Division. That definition does not include progestins, estrogens and corticosteroids.