The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Anti-Doping News

You've no doubt already heard the news. From Tuesday's New York Times:
Federal authorities said yesterday that they had exposed a sprawling underground distribution network for steroids, human growth hormone and other illicit bodybuilding drugs supplied by 37 companies in China.

The operation revealed a much wider, more diffuse commerce in performance-enhancing drugs than previously known, with a latticework of bathroom and basement manufacturers and distributors. That contrasted with the more centralized drug network from past years that tapped into established pharmaceutical pipelines.

A network of Internet-based chemical wholesalers, anonymous e-mail services and password-protected chat rooms fueled the trade, federal and state officials said.
The D.E.A. estimates that 99 percent of the illegal steroids originate with chemicals from China.
Two years ago the DEA pulled off the previously biggest-ever performance-enhancing drug bust, called Operation Gear Grinder, which was aimed mostly at destroying the flow of steroids into the USA from Mexico. This new bust, dubbed Operation Raw Deal, is obviously centered on the trade with China. The major difference is how the drugs came to the USA; from Mexico they were basically ready-to-use, but this new pipeline was mainly raw supplies which were then manufactured into drugs here in the states.

In the USA alone, the bust netted 124 arrests and the shutdown of 56 labs, including a massive Long Island operation. Feds say they have thousands of names which they have not as of yet disclosed but they say they will be working with WADA and USADA as well as MLB and the NFL. Big names could be implicated, but I personally doubt we'll get a bunch in track & field.
The dealers engaged in illegally manufacturing and selling anabolic steroids over the Internet, the authorities said, and tried to avoid detection through anonymous e-mail services and password-protected chat rooms.

Customers contacted encrypted e-mail addresses and often sent cash to post office boxes.

“There was a definite local customer base on Long Island. However, the clientele was also outside this jurisdiction — they didn’t just cater to Long Island,” said Teri Corrigan, chief of the street narcotics and gang bureau for the Nassau County district attorney’s office, which worked with federal agents on the investigation.

She said that many sellers advertised on bodybuilding chat rooms and online bulletin boards, and that investigators placed Internet orders for steroids and observed sellers mailing packages. Web site operators are suspected of using savvy techniques to screen customers by checking their e-mail addresses to see if they had a history of visiting bodybuilding Web sites.
Top track athletes know everyone is looking over their shoulders, and in the wake of the BALCO affair the smart ones will never handle deals themselves or write anything down anywhere. Other athletes such as baseball players, however, are likely to have assumed the Internet is totally anonymous (it's not, folks) and they'll be the ones getting hit.

Others with actual real knowledge agree:

U.S. Olympic athletes could emerge unscathed from the scandal, according to Travis Tygart, who oversees the drug-testing program for the Olympic team. Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and an adviser during the 20-month international investigation that culminated in four days of raids last week, said the evidence he has seen suggests the list does not include athletes expected to represent the U.S. at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Tygart apparently is the lone sports official privy to contents of the list – a database of the names of people who received steroids, HGH and other performance-enhancing drugs during the investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Administration...

It's been estimated that this police action destroyed 90% of the the USA's HGH supply. That can't be bad; at the very least, it will drive up the cost for the high-end users.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: drug testing is no longer the strongest weapon in the anti-doping effort. Law enforcement has taken over.

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