Professional athletes in US linked to online steroid ring

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

A steroid distribution network exposed by a New York prosecutor is reported to have connections to a number of high-profile professional athletes, including retired boxer Evander Holyfield and current Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews, Jr.

Federal agents raided two pharmacies in Florida and Alabama which were tabbed by a prosecutor in Albany County, New York as having links to illicit distributors of steroids. Eight people have been arrested in connection to this ring, and up to 24 people are individuals of interest to federal agents and may be arrested before the investigation is over.

According to records seized during the raids, customers of the pharmacies included Holyfield, Matthews, former baseball star Jose Canseco, and former pitcher Jason Grimsley. Investigators reportedly have found evidence that performance-enhancing drugs were prescribed to a number of professional athletes as well as international bodybuilders. Further evidence showed that Dr. Richard Rydze, team doctor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, purchased $150,000 worth of human growth hormone on his personal credit card. Calls to Dr. Rydze were not immediately returned.

Those arrested include Stan and Naomi Loomis, owners of Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, Florida. Two other employees of the pharmacy (including Loomis's brother, Mike) were arrested as well. P. David Soares, Albany County prosecutor, indicated in filings from his office that Signature is believed to be a "producer" of anabolic steroids. Grimsley and Rydze were reported to be customers of Signature Pharmacy. Holyfield, Matthews, and Canseco were allegedly on customer lists from Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Alabama. Both pharmacies and their owners are implicated in the steroid ring.

According to SI.com, Matthews received shipments of Genotropin, a synthetic growth hormone. The shipments were sent to the address of one of his former minor-league teammates in Mansfield, Texas. Matthews claimed he did not know why his name was on Applied Pharmacy's customer list. He did not comment further on the situation, stating that he was not "in a position to answer specific questions."

On Wednesday, Holyfield indicated that he was "not overly concerned about the situation." He did mention that the only purchase of medical supplies that can be attributed to him were medications for his father, who died of a heart ailment in January. Later that evening, Holyfield released a more pointed denial, stating, "I do not use steroids. I have never used steroids. I resent that my name has been linked to known steroid users by sources who refuse to be identified in order to generate publicity for their investigation."

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