MIAMI, Feb. 27 -- State and federal agents raided an Orlando pharmacy Tuesday as part of a long-term investigation into illegal steroid and human growth hormone sales, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation in Orlando said.
The raid of Signature Pharmacy was first reported on the Web site of the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union, which said it stemmed from a year-long investigation led by Albany County's district attorney, and involved New York Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agents and the Orlando-based federal task force.
The newspaper said the pharmacy might have supplied prescriptions of testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs to current and former Major League Baseball and NFL players, high school and college athletes, and bodybuilders. Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares said Tuesday night that athletes and "celebrities" were involved but declined to identify them. He also said his office was targeting doctors, pharmacists and distributors, not individual patients.
"I understand that the involvement of athletes and celebrities makes this a sexy story, but I assure you we are not, at this point, we are not concerned with the celebrity factor," Soares said, according to the Associated Press. "Our focus here is to shut down distribution channels."
Investigators arrested at least three people affiliated with the pharmacy, including owners Stan and Naomi Loomis, in front of the downtown store as the raid was carried out. At least eight people in Florida, Texas and New York were arrested, with up to 24 expected to face felony charges, Reuters reported.
Several professional athletes were clients of another pharmacy in Mobile, Ala., that might have provided illicit drugs to professional athletes. The owners of that pharmacy recently were indicted in Albany County, the Times-Union reported. An attorney for that pharmacy, Applied Pharmacy Services, did not respond to a request for comment.
Both of the pharmacies offered prescriptions over the Internet, which federal investigators believe has become a primary source for illicit sales of performance-enhancing drugs in recent years as pharmacists skirt lenient laws governing the industry.
A baseball trainer told The Washington Post in 2003 that he had watched one player order a performance-enhancing drug from an Internet pharmacy without an appointment, medical evaluation or prescription.
Twelve agencies participated in the raids of two Signature Pharmacy locations, the Orlando task force reported.
Soares has led the year-long investigation, which he said began after an Albany doctor was arrested on drug charges last year. Investigators collected dozens of boxes of computer equipment, files and drugs during the raid, placing them in a U-Haul truck.
The Times-Union said an NFL team physician used a personal credit card to purchase $150,000 in testosterone and human growth hormone last year but told investigators they were for legitimate prescriptions.
Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Tuesday night his only knowledge of the case had come through media reports. "I can't really say anything because I have not spoken to anyone about it," Upshaw said.