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Steroids and their impact on parenting issues

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

Anabolic steroids and their derivatives fall under Schedule IV, s. 23 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Pursuant to s. 4(2) of the Act, “no person shall seek or obtain a substance … or an authorization to obtain a substance included in … Schedule IV from a practitioner, unless the person discloses to the practitioner particulars relating to the acquisition by the person of every substance in those Schedules, and of every authorization to obtain such substances, from any other practitioner within the preceding thirty days.”

Interestingly, this form of steroid, for which there is little legitimate medical use, is more ubiquitous than one would think.

In a 2015 article investigating the accessibility of illegal steroids, a convicted steroid dealer was alleged to have customers spanning every demographic. Young and old, male and female, the dealer’s customers included mothers getting into the sport of bodybuilding, personal trainers, firefighters, teenage girls and elite athletes.

Anabolic steroids are usually taken to aid in muscle growth or athletic performance but they also come with undesired side effects. The adverse effects include a myriad of health problems and increase the likelihood of mood changes, including increased aggression and hostility.

In a recent case, our client was a mother of two who knew that the father was taking steroids for muscle enhancement during the parties’ relationship.

Our firm successfully got an order for the father to have supervised access to the children and an order banning the father from being under the influence of any non-medically prescribed drugs during his weekly access visits. A further order was made for a biweekly urine test screening for all drugs, including steroids.

In support of the orders, we made several arguments, including the adverse effects of the use of steroids by the father that were observed by the mother, such as his violent outbursts. However, the judge was primarily persuaded in her decision by the fact that the steroids were non-medically prescribed drugs.

In a more recent decision, in the case of Dominique v. Ierullo 2019 ONSC 2783, Justice Maria Linhares de Sousa heard a motion and cross motion by the applicant father seeking unsupervised access to his 6-year-old son. The court heard allegations of the father’s violence against the mother and his aggressive and impatient behaviour toward the child, as well as the mother’s observation that the father’s use of steroids in the presence of the child was troublesome and problematic.

The father was ordered to undergo random testing for steroids within 48 hours’ notice of the mother’s request, to a maximum of once every 30 days and that physical access take place under supervision. The mother was also granted temporary sole custody of their child.

These examples highlight the legal system’s emerging attitudes toward illegal performance-enhancing drugs and how their use can impact parenting rights. Anabolic steroids appear to be treated similarly to other abused substances such as illegal drugs and alcohol, the use of which, when considering the best interests of the child, courts will ensure that any risks to the child are mitigated against.

The tricky task is in detecting and demonstrating to the court that a parent is potentially using these substances. It may be difficult to establish that a parent is using anabolic steroids, especially if the signs of use are not outwardly apparent. It is possible that, with the prevalence of steroid use among the general population and the lack of reported jurisprudence on the detrimental effects of steroid use and parenting, the court’s treatment of cases involving children could shift toward that resembling the approach to alcohol use and, now that it has been legalized, cannabis use.

Regarding legal substances such as cannabis and alcohol, courts have ordered parents not to consume them for a 12-hour period prior to and during the time that they are in the care and control of the child (see Darby v. Wilhelm [2017] O.J. No. 3459 and Delwo v. Giroux [2012] O.J. No. 4907). In the meantime, anabolic steroids remain an illegal substance and any detrimental effects on parenting are not widely reported in case law.

Inna Tsinman of Tsinman Law was educated at Osgoode Hall Law School. She has experience with complex financial issues, including support, property and trust issues. Inna has also advocated for clients in complex issues pertaining to child custody, access, relocation and the Hague Convention. Geoffrey Wong of Tsinman Law advocates for clients in high-conflict and complex files. Geoffrey is a member of the Ontario Bar Association, the Toronto Lawyers Association, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and the Christian Legal Fellowship.