by Christian Duque
When it comes to supplements, I’m pretty libertarian. I think there is a lot going on when it comes to over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, herbal supplements, and flavorings (from sugar to salt alternatives). I’m pretty much into the live and let live mindset. There are a few caveats, however.
For the most part, supplements that help build, maintain, or repair muscle will be good for me. I think the government should stay out of the discussion about whether adults want to be muscular, reduce body fat, and / or improve their quality of life. I find it ridiculous that a government that makes a profit by selling poison – alcohol and tobacco – should have a moral foothold and deny citizens access to harmless nutritional supplements to help them on their fitness journey. I also opposed the FDA’s years of restrictions on stevia, which banned it from being sold as a sugar alternative. Was Stevia Harmful? No it was not. It’s found in a number of products today, and the mainstream can’t get enough. It’s much sweeter than sugar, with no insulin spikes, and it’s a far better option for diabetics and those looking to cut body fat. If this herbal sweetener is helping so many, who has left to lose? Well that’s pretty clear. At the top of the list are the sugar and sweetener industries. The idea that an herb unchanged by man could conquer an entire market led to powerful lobbies springing into action.
Governments do not always necessarily act in the best interests of their constituents. In many cases, they do as they are told by powerful lobbies and campaign donors. A prime example of this is Washington’s kowtow on Big Pharma. I am not blind to these realities; However, I make exceptions for companies that bring questionable products to market, endanger consumer health, and get away with it. Therein lies the inspiration for this article. I’m not talking about established dietary supplement companies or licensed clinics offering therapies prescribed by the doctor, but black market sites hiding in the dark web selling products labeled as not intended for human consumption.
The fact is that when you are dealing with many of the SARM sites currently doing business online they don’t have a physical address, you don’t know who works for the company, and in many cases you don’t even know where Your funds flow. A growing number of these companies are moving towards cryptocurrency. They don’t want the government to find them – let alone their customers. Imagine buying a product or service but not knowing who is receiving your payment. As a consumer, you no longer have any legal recourse. This is often the case with people who are foolish enough to buy equipment this way. Health risks aside, anyone who buys illegal substances – online or otherwise – has no way to complain. As a consumer, you are at the greatest possible disadvantage. Not only is it illegal, which means you face jail time and fines, but you are gambling with your health too. Additionally, you have no way of knowing what you are putting into your body, it may or not be what it is, and it may not have been made in a sterile facility. In addition, it can even be dangerous [other] Substances that are used as fillers. The fact is, the SARMS market is not much different on the dark web.
There are a seemingly endless number of SARM sites online these days. These operations range from full-fledged websites with identifiable employees, mainstream email addresses, and even actual street addresses. Via these street addresses, most of those who have a “suite” are nothing more than a mailbox; however, it gives the name a kind of face. There is accountability at least at some level – though usually not very high. However, these websites span the gamut. From the above that seem to have at least some semblance of legitimacy to those that are completely the opposite.
Many SARM sites don’t have a physical address, email address, or even descriptions of the particular substance / stack they have. Imagine a blank page with a series of abominations, the now common “Not For Human Consumption” disclaimer (which actually does not exclude liability) and various links for the Cash app, cryptocurrency, and a very simple form that users enter their can enter mailing information. Consumers are basically sending money into a black hole not knowing what they are going to get, when they will get it and most importantly what impact it will have on them. Imagine if you had a terrible reaction and couldn’t even tell your doctor what you took? How can you expect treatment?
If you asked most people if they would ever put anything into their bodies – especially something marketed as a research chemical – they would clearly say NO !! However, bodybuilders don’t think like real people. You are conditioned to believe that backward government policies have made it impossible to make quality food available to the general public. Many of the sport’s most devoted supporters see the operators of these seedy sites as some sort of brave class of brave pioneers willing to risk anything to bring actually working substances to the fitness industry. They look for reputable companies that do things right – as cookie cutters – and think their products are more smoke than substance.
This mentality is shared by bodybuilders of all levels of education, social status and time in sport. This enables the gullibility that is required for countless people to do business with the types of websites that make money on the darknet. And while there is no real legal recourse (e.g., putting someone’s feet to the fire, determining ingredients or dosages, let alone getting a refund), the message boards are the only place an angry and even injured user can complain.
The boards have become something of a clearinghouse for users to share their experiences with using SARM sites. In the vast majority of cases, the ratings are not good. People complain that they get ripped off, have placebo effects, and others made fun of getting sick. In many cases, these posts discourage potential buyers from the pitfalls of those whose posts they read. That being said, even among these readers there is still a sizeable segment who even disagree with the warnings of like-minded people as if they were nothing more than sour grapes. They believe their diet was wrong, their exercise failed, or something else was wrong – but they would never blame the website. Once again, the people in question may seem like fools, but we could be talking about doctors, lawyers, and engineers. It’s not about intelligence, but rather about the culture among the most dedicated strength athletes. This is what these shady sites build on.
Also, many posts are moderated on message boards, which means that they will be deleted. Lots of seedy SARM sites see the writing on the wall. They know the boards are the only real place for dissatisfied customers to let off steam, so they sponsor the sites and write off the money spent as a business-related expense. Advertising is definitely a business expense, but these websites do not pump money into the websites for that purpose. Their goal is less to generate goodwill than to pay to silence people who might want to draw attention to their real work. All in all, there are a lot of seedy sites that a lot of good people are kidding – and chances are – you’ll never hear about them.
In many ways, the government’s obsession with eradicating everything but creatine has indirectly contributed to the creation of a huge black market of illegal and gray area supplements on the dark webs. The gray-haired bureaucrats who don’t collect and accept monster donations from Big Pharma are unlikely to change their minds. Republicans, Democrats and Independents all have their hands open. They’re for sale – always have and always will be. As long as good supplements become scarce and technology advances, more of these scam sites will pop up. More people are being ripped off, and possibly more people are getting sick. I hate to end this article so quietly, but here at Iron Magazine we like to tell it the way it is. I’m sorry if you thought this major upgrade was leading to a happy ending. It is not. The fact is, we have tons of people playing scientists with unknown substances and if something goes wrong we will never hear about it. Even at a time when social media is king, some of the fitness industry’s darkest secrets never seem to come to light.
What do you think of seedy SARM sites? Are they harmless – or – could they one day prove to be a major nuisance?