Athletes Received Illegal Steroids In Online Ring - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Athletes Received Illegal Steroids In Online Ring

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Athletes were involved as customers in an
illicit steroid distribution network that led authorities to raid
two Orlando pharmacies and arrest four company officials, a New
York prosecutor said.

Albany County (N.Y.) District Attorney P. David Soares refused
to identify any steroid recipients, saying prosecutors were focused
on producers and distributors.

Customers include Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., according to the Times Union of Albany, which first disclosed
the investigation, citing unidentified sources. Matthews would not
answer specific questions about the story Wednesday.

"I understand that the involvement of athletes and celebrities
makes this a sexy story, but I assure you we are not, at this
point, we are not concerned with the celebrity factor," Soares
said. "Our focus here is to shut down distribution channels."

Matthews, speaking to reporters at the Angels' spring training
camp in Mesa, Ariz., said he wasn't "in a position to answer any
specific questions."
"I do expect it to resolve itself here in the near future. ...
Until we get more information, I just can't comment on it," he
said.

Matthews said he didn't know why is name was reportedly on the
client list, adding, "That's what we're working on, trying to find
out. I will address it at appropriate time."

Soares was in Florida on Tuesday for raids conducted by federal
and state agents at two Signature Pharmacy stores. Four company
officials, including a married couple who are both pharmacists,
were arrested.

Prosecutors were to ask at a hearing Thursday that the four be
extradited to New York. According to the arrest warrants, all four
were indicted on charges of enterprise corruption, criminal sale of
a controlled substance, criminal diversion of prescription
medications and insurance fraud.

Soares refused to answer most questions about the case, which
involves sealed indictments. He said his investigation began after
an Albany doctor was arrested for allegedly trafficking in
narcotics online.

"I cannot elaborate any more and I cannot provide you with any
more details without compromising an investigation which even at
this point is at a very sensitive stage," he said.

The Times Union said investigators found evidence that
testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs may have been
fraudulently prescribed over the Internet to current and former
Major League Baseball and NFL players, college athletes, high
school coaches, a former Mr. Olympia champion and another top
contender in the bodybuilding competition.

The paper said a New York investigator flew to Pittsburgh last
month to interview a physician for the Pittsburgh Steelers about
why he allegedly used a personal credit card to purchase about
$150,000 in testosterone and human growth hormone in 2006.

The physician, Richard A. Rydze, told the investigator the drugs
were for his private patients, the paper said, citing an
unidentified person briefed on the interview.

There are no allegations Rydze violated any laws.
Steelers spokesman Dave Lockett told The Associated Press that
Rydze works for the club mostly on game days. He is listed among
the seven doctors under the "medical staff" designation on the
official team employment roster.

"We can't comment any further because we are still gathering
information," Lockett said.
A message for Rydze was not immediately returned.

Arrested on Tuesday were Stan and Naomi Loomis, who own the
Signature Pharmacy in downtown Orlando, Stan's brother Mike Loomis
and Kirk Calvert, Signature's marketing director. Soares' office
identified Signature as a "producer" of the illegally distributed
drugs.

Also arrested as a result of the New York investigation were
three people Soares' office described as "distributors" from a
Sugar Land, Texas, company called Cellular Nucleonic Advantage.
Before the investigation is complete, Soares' office said, up to
24 people could face charges, including six doctors and three
pharmacists.

The Loomis' pharmacy contains a small retail store that sells
bodybuilding supplements, a drug laboratory and executive offices.
Investigators loaded boxes into a truck and seized drugs,
including anabolic steroids and human growth hormone, said Carl
Metzger, narcotics commander for Orlando's Metropolitan Bureau of
Investigation.

"I can't tell you what percentage of their business was legal
and how much involved stacking steroids, but there was a mix,"
Metzger said.

Metzger said the search revealed a "raid card" at numerous
Signature Pharmacy employees' desks with contact information for
lawyers. The top of the documents identified it as a Food and Drug
Administration/Drug Enforcement Agency telephone list, but only
lawyers were on the card, Metzger said.

Soares' office alleges that Signature filled prescriptions, in
some cases from unlicensed doctors, knowing they had not met
patients. The office said at least $250,000 in illegal and
controlled substances were sold directly into Albany County, and
New York State sales exceeded $10 million.

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