What's that you were saying about this being the post-steroids era?
The Albany Times Union reported Tuesday night that a yearlong New York state grand jury investigation into illegal online drug sales has uncovered evidence that performance-enhancing drugs have been prescribed over the Internet to professional and college athletes and high school coaches, among others.
A federal task force in the case raided the Sunshine Pharmacy in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, arresting its married owners, both pharmacists, along with a third pharmacist and the marketing director. The paper, in a story written by Brendan J. Lyons, reported that more than two dozen arrests are expected in the next few days in New York, Florida, Texas and Alabama.
Two owners of a Mobile, Ala., lab have also been indicted in a related case. The Times Union, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation, identified Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield and retired baseball player Jose Canseco -- a steroids advocate and admitted user -- as customers.
So this is the latest in what's becoming a regular series of events in the sports-and-drugs realm that makes us all sit back and go, "Whoa, so that's how big the problem is." Until the next one, when we learn it's even bigger.
The series dates back to the late Ken Caminiti's confession to Sports Illustrated in 2002 that his 1996 MVP season was fueled by steroids, and his estimate in the same article that at least half of all major leaguers use steroids. He later scaled back that estimate.
We've had the positive tests of various marginal baseball players, starting with Alex Sanchez, which showed us that the steroid problem wasn't limited to the muscular superstars on the home-run leader board. Dirty tests for journeyman pitchers, starting with Agustin Montero, also proved this point.
We've had Rafael Palmeiro's positive test, which showed us that, oh yeah, the big sluggers too. We've had the raid on pitcher Jason Grimsley's house, which resulted in an affidavit in which he talked about the prevalence in baseball of human growth hormone, for which Major League Baseball does not test.
And now this. Times Union reporter Lyons writes that the inquiry took investigators "deep inside a maze of shadowy pharmacies and Web sites that have reaped millions of dollars in profit by allegedly exploiting federal and state prescription laws, according to court records."
Times Union columnist Brian Ettkin went online to explore this shadowy world. "I'd never browsed the Internet for steroids before, so I thought they'd be hard to find," he writes. "It took six seconds. I type slowly."
The problem really is that big. And I don't think it really matters how you define "that" in that sentence. The sky's the limit.
As usual in these doping busts, the alleged bad guys were hiding in plain sight, operating pretty much out in the open. The Times Union reports that agents working surveillance of the Sunshine Pharmacy in Orlando noted at least one NFL player wandering in.
And still it took a year for investigators to get their ducks in a row to start making arrests -- in a small handful of labs and pharmacies. Who knows how many more there are. You may not have noticed this, but this is a big country. And the Internet makes it small.
Professional athletes have mind-boggling financial resources and widespread personal connections at their disposal. Imagine how hard it's going to be to catch the bad guys who are smart enough to actually operate in the shadows.
Good luck with that drug testing, baseball and other sports. There's almost certainly a chemist with an attitude somewhere -- maybe in Kansas, maybe in New Jersey, maybe in Idaho; you just keep looking -- who's inventing a synthetic drug that will beat the test you're going to invent five years from now.
We'll be right over here, waiting for the next revelation that tells us that, wow, that's how big the drug problem in sports is.
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So, Babydol, what'd you think of Tommy's performance? [PERMALINK]
Hall of Fame Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda's name is among those reportedly in the "trick book" of Hollywood madam Jody "Babydol" Gibson, who served two years on a 2000 conviction for running an international prostitution ring.
The release of the customer list of a Hollywood madam is one of the old standbys of the Los Angeles news biz. It's sort of like a Mob trial in New York or a crop freeze in Florida.
Actor Bruce Willis and Los Angeles D.J. Steve Jones, once the guitarist for the Sex Pistols, also appeared in the phone book, which with other evidence in the case has been unsealed by the Los Angeles Superior Court, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. Gibson also has written a tell-all autobiography, "Secrets of a Hollywood SuperMadam," that will be in bookstores Thursday and that reportedly names names.
Lasorda and Willis both denied knowing Gibson, and Lasorda threatened to sue. Jones, in a refreshing bit of celebrity frankness in these matters, said, "It's possible."
Lasorda always said that if you cut him, he bleeds Dodger blue. I wonder if Gibson's records include any notes about ... ah, never mind.
Someday in L.A., there's going to be a high-speed chase involving a Hollywood madam's customer list, and the helicopters will follow along, and daytime programming will be preempted, and my hometown will have reached a sort of news nirvana.
Of course, if it rains that day, the whole thing'll have to wait for the second half-hour of the evening news.
(Tip o' the goatee to longtime reader David Perez, whose joke I stole for the headline.)
Previous column: Death and the athlete
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