"The final theme emanating from this exploration is the notable affordances and ‘malaffordances’ of both platforms that facilitate IPED supply. To first address the former of these, a fundamental capitalist logic undergirds the replication of mainstream marketing tactics in the social media IPED market. Facebook and Instagram, by design, lend themselves to the perpetuation of capital and the stimulation of consumer desire both as spaces of commerce (for example, in-app purchasing) and advertisement (particularly the monetisation of self-representation afforded to social media influencers (van Driel and Dumitrica 2021)). As a result, these platforms afford IPED sellers with the tools to simulate cultural proximity through the ability to post relevant content, self-objectify as an act of prosumption, mobilise sponsored athletes, and more broadly exist in the same ‘field’ (Bourdieu 1980) as their customer base. As is argued above, the digitisation of fitness is symbiotic with the burgeoning licit and illicit social media ergogenic aids market, and therefore Facebook and Instagram allow non-culturally embedded sellers (Fincoeur et al. 2015) not only access to their client base, but also a periscope into the language, self-presentation, and culture of prospective consumers. This is compounded by affordances like Instagram’s ‘story’ feature (Kurniawan 2020), which is utilised for seasonal sales and promotions as well as both platforms’ facilitation of visual content, which can be employed to share customer feedback and the host of other techniques described above.

"However, whilst social media platforms have proven to be fruitful avenues for the supply of IPEDs and other illicit substances (Demant et al. 2020; Bakken, 2021), their simplicity to use and the ease with which users can misrepresent themselves is striking. True to the current literature on the inherent distrust in online illicit drugs markets, analysis uncovered multiple elements of deception by social media IPED sellers which, ironically, potentially functioned to undermine attempts to establish a trustworthy brand. UGLs’ reported utilisation of fake accounts to create ‘buzz’ certainly speak to this challenge, as well as the potentially misleading transformation photos posted by social media resellers. This ties into a broader literature on the innate fakery and manipulated self-representation on social media, with the ubiquitous employment of filters, curated lighting, posed images, and putting forward one’s ‘best self’ (Ross 2019; Tiggemann and Anderberg 2019; Kotzé et al. 2020). Therefore, whilst social media platforms may be potent marketing tools for the seller, the customer perhaps does not benefit from this development. This has potentially negative consequences for the safety of users and the regulation of the market."


Gibbs N. #Sponseredathlete: the marketing of image and performance enhancing drugs on Facebook and Instagram. Trends Organ Crime. Published online March 28, 2023. doi:10.1007/s12117-023-09491-4