'Raw Deal' busts labs across U.S., many supplied by China
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NEW YORK -- In a four-day series of daylight raids that ended Sunday, Drug Enforcement Administration agents shut down 26 underground steroid labs and made more than 50 arrests across the country, capping what agents are calling the largest performance-enhancing drug crackdown in U.S. history. The DEA also has identified 37 Chinese factories that purportedly supplied the raw materials for the labs, a DEA spokesman told ESPN.The raids capped an 18-month probe that has netted 124 arrests in 27 states and closed 56 labs. The agency also seized $6.5 million and 532 pounds of raw steroid powder -- 308 pounds of it in the past week. Most of the raids took place in quiet suburban neighborhoods. The investigation also focused on message boards where advice is traded about obtaining raw materials, as well as on the Web sites that help the labs sell finished products to the public. Hundreds of thousands of e-mails were intercepted, according to Dan Simmons, a San Diego-based special agent for the DEA. Simmons said that no professional athletes have been implicated so far but that the e-mails are being compiled into a massive database of names and are being analyzed.
Open supply lines
The Chinese government talks a good game when it comes to cracking down on the availability of performance-enhancing drugs in advance of the Beijing Olympics, but ESPN The Magazine's Shaun Assael found that the supply lines are still wide open. Story
In Connecticut, four men were charged with purchasing raw steroid powder from China, manufacturing anabolic steroids in home laboratories and distributed them to customers through a MySpace.com profile and a Web site.A Chinese corporation and its chief executive were indicted in Rhode Island on federal charges of smuggling illegal human growth hormone into the country in connection with the operation.
"China really stepped up to the plate to help us in this investigation," DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said in Washington.
A federal grand jury in Rhode Island indicted Genescience Pharmaceutical Co. and its CEO, Lei Jin, last week on charges including money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate the sale of smuggled goods. Lin is accused of marketing the drugs, under the brand name Jinotropin, through e-mail and Web sites.
It is unclear what impact the case will have in China, where the Chinese government is preparing for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Already reeling from a series of food and drug scandals that led to the execution of the head of its state food and drug administration earlier this year, the government has promised the cleanest Olympic Games in history. But it is also keenly aware that performance-enhancing drugs are a source of great profit. The World Anti-Doping Administration estimates that Chinese factories are responsible for as much as 70-80 percent, or up to $480 million worldwide, of an annual $600 million black market in human growth hormone.
In a Sept. 24 ESPN.com story on a series of Drug Enforcement Administration raids, Special Agent Dan Simmons was not among those who traveled to Beijing to brief Chinese counterparts. In addition, the DEA provides evidence to the U.S. Attorney's office, which makes that decision on what information to share it with other law enforcement agencies and Congress. The DEA does not make that decision itself. And 99.9 percent of the steroids seized in the raid came from China, rather than 99 percent of the steroids in the U.S.
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