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Washington Capitals players interviewed after chiropractor with ties to team arrested on steroids charges

By Amy Shipley and Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; D01

Investigators interviewed several Washington Capitals players Tuesday after a chiropractor with ties to the Capitals and Washington Nationals was arrested at his home in Reston and charged with obtaining steroids and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs from an alleged steroids dealer in Lakeland, Fla.

Douglas Owen Nagel, who has treated several Capitals players and promoted himself as the team chiropractor, is being charged with purchasing steroids for at least a year from Richard "Andy" Thomas, who is awaiting federal sentencing in Florida on a variety of steroids possession and distribution charges. Investigators have found no "conclusive evidence or proof" that Nagel distributed steroids to any professional athletes, according to Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff Grady Judd.

In an interview with Polk County detectives last Sept. 28, Nagel, who claims on his Web site to have competed in national bodybuilding qualifying events, said the steroids he ordered from Thomas were for personal use and not provided to any athletes, but the package weight of two of the shipments -- 14 and 9 ounces -- indicated quantities large enough for distribution, according to Judd. Judd said the packages contained nandrolone and testosterone.

After Nagel was arrested Tuesday, two Polk County investigators visited Kettler Capitals Iceplex, accompanied by at least one member of the U.S. Marshal's Office, and interviewed Capitals head athletic trainer Greg Smith and three players who had been treated by Nagel, individuals with direct knowledge of the investigation said on condition of anonymity. Forwards Matt Bradley and Eric Fehr and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn were interviewed, the individuals said.

Judd, who did not confirm the identities of the players interviewed, said no Nationals were being interviewed because Nagel's connection to the baseball team seemed more tenuous.

Nagel's office, which is located in the same building that houses the Capitals' front office and practice facility in Arlington, was closed for business Tuesday, but a sign on the glass door read "Dr. Doug Nagel Chiropractor, Washington Capitals." Nagel was listed as a consultant for the Nationals and Capitals at an event called the 2009 Baseball Team Medical Conference, which drew esteemed Los Angeles Dodgers surgeon Lewis A. Yocum, Capitals team physician Benjamin Shaffer and others.

Shaffer said Tuesday he believed the players who visited Nagel received "above-board chiropractic care," adding, "whatever the guy was doing was on his own; he certainly wasn't associated with the Capitals."

In a statement, the Capitals said Nagel had no formal affiliation with the team, but that some players had seen him for "standard, routine chiropractic services." The statement also noted that all NHL players face routine, random drug-testing.

"The Washington Capitals are not the target of this investigation, and there is no evidence that steroids were provided to any Capitals players," the statement said. "This has been a thorough investigation, and we are satisfied that law enforcement, the NHL and our own internal investigation have not led to any link of steroid use by Capitals players."

Nationals President Stan Kasten said he had never heard of Nagel before Tuesday and that he was "not associated with the Nationals in any way. He never has been. Our trainers have never had anything to do with him."

On May 26, 2009, police found more than $200,000 worth of illegal drugs in Thomas's home. Detectives found a shipping label in Thomas's home addressed to Nagel, and Thomas claimed that Nagel had bragged about supplying performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes in the Washington area, according to a Polk County release issued Tuesday morning.

Detectives obtained subpoenas for shipping labels on packages from Nagel to Thomas and allege that seven FedEx deliveries were made from April 4, 2008, to May 4, 2009. Both men told investigators the packages contained money from Nagel that was used to pay for shipments of anabolic steroids, Judd said.

Nagel, 50, who was arrested by undercover detectives from the Polk County Sheriff's Tactical Drug Unit and the U.S. Marshal's Office, faces seven counts of solicitation to deliver a controlled substance and one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.

Licensed to practice chiropractic medicine in Virginia since 2003, Nagel received a reprimand and $1,000 fine from the Virginia Board of Medicine in October 2005. He was charged with treating clients in Pennsylvania in 2000-01 without obtaining a chiropractic license for that state, and then misrepresenting facts about those services rendered in his application to practice in Virginia. Nagel had been licensed and practiced in New York for about 10 years without any disciplinary action against him.

In 2002, he filed for bankruptcy in the Eastern District of Virginia with more than $222,000 in liabilities.

On his Web site, Nagel says he graduated from New York Chiropractic College and C.W. Post College and was a professor at American University in the Health and Fitness Department. He said he competed in bodybuilding events. Judd noted that Nagel had advertised himself on the site as the team chiropractor for the Capitals, but abruptly abandoned that designation March 2.

Judd said Major League Baseball and NFL security officials had reached out offering assistance and support for the investigation after Thomas's arrest last year, but that the NHL had not reached out similarly.

Jeff Carter, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said investigators from the agency's Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force helped Polk County deputies in arresting Nagel on Tuesday to enforce a local warrant sworn out in Florida. He said there is no investigation of Nagel or his activities in the D.C. area.

Thomas had been arrested after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Philadelphia last May intercepted a package containing illicit drugs, including the steroid nandrolone and human growth hormone, destined for Polk County, Fla., from the Slovak Republic.

Staff writers Barry Svrluga, Julie Tate, Adam Kilgore, Jerry Markon, Tom Jackmon and Maria Glod contributed to this report.

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