ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Authorities broke up a suspected steroid ring in Florida on Tuesday that is accused of distributing anti-aging treatments to celebrities and muscle-building drugs to professional athletes.
At least eight people were arrested in Florida, New York and Texas and up to 24 people face felony arrests following a year-long investigation led by the district attorney of Albany County, New York, officials said.
“There are celebrities involved in the case as consumers,” Albany District Attorney David Soares told reporters in Orlando.
Officials also confirmed a report in Albany Times Union that the investigation could expose steroid use by current and former Major League Baseball players, National Football League players, bodybuilders and college and high school athletes.
Soares alleges the network prescribed anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and other substances over the Internet and without face-to-face examinations, supplying a large portion of the national market for illegal online steroid sales.
The company at the heart of the investigation is Orlando-based Signature Pharmacy, which has reported booming sales of hormones as an anti-aging treatment.
The case follows stepped up federal efforts against steroid distribution in recent years including the BALCO case in California, which tarnished the reputation of top athletes in baseball, football and track and field.
Several people served prison time in the case, and baseball star Barry Bonds remains under investigation over whether he lied about steroid use to a federal grand jury investigating the case.
‘NEED TO FIND COMPETITIVE EDGE’
“The recent steroid raid in Florida doesn’t surprise me at all. People from all walks of life now are using performance enhancing substances,” Victor Conte, the head of the BALCO lab who served jail time on steroid distribution charges, told Reuters. “From athletes to movie stars, there seems to be an ever-growing need to find a competitive edge.”
The Albany newspaper named one Major League Baseball player as a customer and said the team doctor of one NFL team was interviewed by investigators after purchasing $150,000 worth of testosterone and human growth hormone.
Asked if the report was accurate, Soared nodded yes. Another law enforcement source who asked to remain anonymous also confirmed the report.
Albany prosecutors were involved in the Florida arrests because they allege at least $250,000 worth of illegal and controlled substances were sold and shipped to Albany County. The probe began looking at an Albany doctor who was arrested last year.
Soares said that led him to Signature Pharmacy, run by Stan Loomis and his wife Naomi Loomis. Those two, Loomis’s brother Mike Loomis and marketing director Kirk Calvert were arrested.
“We focus primarily on age management products and services. That relates primarily to hormones for both men and women. We work with the physician to tailor a dose and a specific product for a patient,” Stan Loomis said in a marketing video posted on www.worldhealth.net.
In a 2005 company profile published in the Orlando Business Journal, Loomis attributed Signature’s rapid growth -- from $550,000 in sales in 2000 to $21 million in 2005 -- to sales of injected human growth hormones prescribed by doctors as an anti-aging remedy.
“Traditional medicine is a big part of our business -- but it doesn’t give the financial reward that customized medicine does,” says Loomis told the business journal in 2005.
Additional reporting by Adam Tanner in San Francisco and Daniel Trotta in New York
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