Operation Raw Deal!

Operation Raw Deal!
Written by Josh Peter, Yahoo! Sports
Monday, 24 September 2007
September 24, 2007

An international investigation code-named Operation
Raw Deal carried out the last four days could produce
the next steroids scandal in sports – and perhaps the
biggest yet.

Operation Raw Deal!

The undercover operation led by the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration resulted in the seizure of
massive amounts of anabolic steroids from an illegal,
underground network and the ability to identify
hundreds of thousands of people who received steroids
and other substances used by some athletes as
performance-enhancing drugs, a DEA spokesman told
Yahoo! Sports on Sunday.

Most of the raids took place in the United States, and
the DEA called the steroids crackdown the largest in
U.S. history. DEA offices in New York and San Diego
provided lead guidance during an investigation that
resulted in 124 arrests and seizures at 56 labs across
the country. Investigators also seized 71 weapons, 27
pill presses, 25 vehicles and three boats, but the
coveted item was illegal drugs, and the DEA said it
intercepted a staggering quantity.

Also, federal officials are creating a database of
names of the people who received steroids, human
growth hormone (HGH) and other drugs banned by most
sports leagues and athletic associations, DEA
spokesman Rusty Payne said.

OPERATION RAW DEAL

Operation Raw Deal!

The Drug Enforcement Administration led a massive,
undercover operation that targeted the illegal
importation and distribution of steroids, human growth
hormone and other medications. A primary source of the
illicit drugs was coming from Chinese manufacturers.

Countries involved in the operation:

United States
(26 states)
China
Mexico
Canada
Belgium

Australia
Germany
Denmark
Sweden
Thailand

“I have no information about any athletes yet,” Payne
said when asked about the names in the database and
others implicated in the case. But he acknowledged the
drugs2.jpgpossibility of athletes being linked to the
investigation that focused largely on steroids, HGH
and other drugs being manufactured by Chinese
companies and flooding the U.S. market.

“Of course, performance-enhancing drugs are an issue
right now,” Payne told Yahoo! Sports during a
telephone interview. “They’re in the news, and they’re
in the news because there have been athletes that have
been tied to them. We know that’s what this story is.”

Steroids, HGH and other drugs seized in the raids
promote muscle growth and speed recovery from injury,
and athletes have used them despite the risk of
suspensions and permanent bans from sport.

Whether Major League Baseball, the NFL and other
sports bodies can gain access to the database and
search for athletes who received substances banned by
the respective sports organizations will be up to top
officials at the Justice Department and DEA, according
to Payne.

“Anything is possible,” he said.

Typically, DEA investigations focus on drug suppliers
and dealers. But now that the DEA has the ability to
identify the largest numbers of people who received
illegal shipments of drugs during Operation Raw Deal,
Payne said, “If you are one of those people, you could
get a knock at your door.”

U.S. officials enlisted the help of China and eight
other countries in an investigation that targeted more
than 35 Chinese companies that produce raw materials
used to make steroids and HGH, and in some cases
finished product, sold illegally on the global
underground network, Payne said.

China has emerged as the leading supplier of illicit
steroids and HGH since the DEA began targeting Mexico
suppliers two years ago. U.S. authorities said the
operation that shut down steroids manufacturers in
Mexico temporarily cut into the supply in the United
States, but Chinese suppliers stepped in.

Last week, Yahoo! Sports obtained documents that
showed HGH imported from China was seized in the
Signature Pharmacy scandal. High-profile athletes
linked to that investigation, launched by the district
attorney in Albany County, N.Y., include baseball
players Rick Ankiel, Gary Matthews Jr., Troy Glaus and
Jay Gibbons; NFL safety Rodney Harrison; boxer Evander
Holyfield; and a dozen pro wrestlers.

The role of Chinese companies in supplying steroids to
the underground market figures to be sensitive for
China considering the country will play host to the
2008 Olympics in Beijing in August. But the
investigation could prove even more damaging to the
world of sports.

Major League Baseball has scrambled to control recent
news leaks of players connected to the Signature
scandal. Last week, an arbitration panel upheld the
results that showed American cyclist Floyd Landis used
synthetic testosterone during his riveting comeback
victory in the 2006 Tour de France. And for months,
during his successful quest to overtake Hank Aaron as
baseball’s all-time home run king, Barry Bonds
reignited controversy from a steroids scandal that
stemmed from a 2003 raid of the Bay Area Laboratory
Co-Operative (BALCO) that ensnared Bonds and several
other well-known athletes.

On Monday, the sports world will learn of the latest
potential bombshell. Officials are scheduled to
announce details of Operation Raw Deal during news
conferences in New York and San Diego.

Investigators hauled in countless bags and boxes
loaded with steroids that have a street value
potentially exceeding $50 million, Payne said. The
stockpile included 11.4 million doses of steroids,
which based on the 0.5 milliliter per dose used by the
DEA for calculations, amounts to about 570,000 vials
that each hold 10 milliliters.

PRIMARY DRUGS SEIZED

* Anabolic steroids
* Human growth hormone
* Human chorionic gonadotropin: used to stimulate
natural production of testosterone
* Insulin growth factor 1: A protein that enhances
muscle growth

Payne said he had no figures for the amount of HGH and
other drugs seized in an operation that involved the
Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Postal
Inspection Service, the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement and U.S. National Drug
Intelligence Center.

“These buyers are solely motivated by a desire to gain
an unfair competitive advantage by using illegal
performance-enhancing substances,” said Terry
Vermillion, Director of the FDA Office of Criminal
Investigations, in a statement provided to Yahoo!
Sports.

But Payne said rather than catching athletes who use
banned drugs, the objective was to stanch the flow of
illegal steroids and other drugs into the U.S. Most of
the drugs seized in the investigation were cooked up
“in filthy conditions with no regard to safety,”
according to the DEA.

The Internet has emerged as a popular source for those
seeking performance-enhancing drugs without the
required prescription, prompting Operation Raw Deal to
employ a four-pronged strategy. The investigation
targeted U.S.-based websites that distribute materials
such as conversion kits necessary to turn raw steroid
powders into finished product; Internet body building
discussion boards that teach individuals how to use,
locate, and discreetly purchase steroids; raw material
manufacturers and suppliers in China and other
countries; and underground steroids labs in the United
States, Canada and Mexico.

Other countries involved in the coordinated
international crackdown included Belgium, Australia,
Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Thailand.

“Operation Raw Deal uncovered a clandestine web of
international drug dealers who lurk on the Internet
for young adults craving the artificial advantage of
anabolic steroids,” Karen P. Tandy, the DEA
administrator, said in a statement.

In addition to steroids and HGH, the operation
targeted Insulin Growth Factor and underground
trafficking of ancillary and counterfeit medications.
Other drugs seized included cocaine, marijuana,
Ecstasy, painkillers, anti-anxiety medications and
Viagra.

The DEA lauded Chinese officials for their
participation in the effort, but whether China
disciplines the manufacturers or discloses information
remains to be seen. U.S. officials provided Chinese
authorities with information packets about more than
35 Chinese companies that allegedly supplied raw
materials for steroids, HGH and other
performance-enhancing drugs and are involved in the
illicit underground trade around the world. But U.S.
officials will withhold the names of those companies
in deference to China.

DEA officials said they launched the operation in
large part because of health risks in taking drugs
that often are mislabeled. The potential side effects
include strokes, liver damage and heart disease,
experts say.

Though the impact of Operation Raw Deal on sports
remains uncertain, the DEA’s work is not done when it
comes to a crackdown on the illegal trafficking of
steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, Payne
said.

“This is not a case with a beginning and an end,” he
said. “I like to look at it more as an initiative.

“This is a huge initiative.”


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