Performance and image enhancing drug (PIED) producers and suppliers: a retrospective content analysis of PIED-provider cases in Australia from 2010-2016

  • Katinka van de VenEmail author
  • Matthew Dunn
  • Kyle Mulrooney


Traditionally policymakers have paid little attention to the consumption of steroids and other performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) in Australia. Yet, in recent times PIEDs have come to occupy an increasing amount of discursive space and, indeed, regulatory action. This newfound interest may be attributed to several broader developments, not least the perception of the involvement of organized crime in distributing PIEDs to the professional sports world and other sectors of this illicit market. This paper seeks to explore the empirical reality of the claim that the production and supply of PIEDs in Australia is the prerogative of organized crime groups. A retrospective content analysis of Australian PIED provider cases was conducted between 2010 and 2016. To widen our search, both media articles describing court cases, obtained from the Factiva database, and public online court records, using the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) database, were searched. Search terms included “steroid*”, “doping” and “testosterone” in combination with the terms “traffic*”, “production”, “supply*” and “import*”. In total, 477 PIED provider cases were identified yet most cases were duplicates, irrelevant or lacked sufficient detail, resulting in a final dataset of 144 cases. A coding schedule was developed based on existing PIED supply literature. Our data shows that most PIED provider cases took place in Queensland (41.7%), followed by New South Wales (25%) and Victoria (13.2%). Regarding the type of providers, the largest group consisted of people active in the gym industry (22%), followed by the healthcare sector (17%), the ‘other’ category (12%) and the security sphere (8%). Of the 144 steroid-provider cases, only 12% of the cases indicated the potential involvement of organized crime groups, with half of those being linked to outlaw motorcycle gangs. In contrast to the claims of authorities, our data suggests that organized crime groups currently play a proportionally small role in the illicit production and supply of steroids and other performance and image enhancing drugs in Australia. Indeed, various actors are involved of which only a small fraction are part of or involved with organized crime groups. Many suppliers are particularly active in the gym industry and healthcare sector. The relative presence of such suppliers has important policy implications, not least with regard to the role of criminal law in addressing the provision of PIEDs.


Steroids Image enhancing drugs Organized crime Outlaw motorcycle gangs Bikie gangs Drug supply Drug trafficking Drug policy Australia 



The authors would like to thank Shann Hulme for her valuable comments.

Compliance with ethical standards


The research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-forprofit sector.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declares that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Drug Policy Modelling Program, Social Policy Research CentreUNSWSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Health and Social DevelopmentDeakin UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and EducationUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia

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