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U.S. arrests 124 in raids of home-based steroid labs

The seizures are part of a worldwide crackdown on drugs from China.

September 25, 2007|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

sacramento -- Pushing to stem underground steroid trafficking in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, federal authorities announced on Monday the seizure of more than 50 home-based labs as part of an international crackdown on performance-enhancing drugs imported from China.

The investigation was the largest steroid enforcement action in U.S. history and it culminated in 124 arrests on U.S. soil, including more than a dozen California indictments, authorities said. It resulted in the seizure of more than 11 million steroid dosage units and 500 pounds of raw steroid powder of Chinese origin.

Karen P. Tandy, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said federal agents hit the illegal steroid industry from top to bottom, including the manufacturers in China who supply the raw materials and the street-level traffickers in the U.S. who often market to high-school athletes looking for an edge on the playing field.

Agents also seized $6.5 million in cash, 25 vehicles, three boats, 27 pill presses and 71 weapons in the sweep, which officials named Operation Raw Deal.

"Today we reveal the truth behind the underground steroid market: dangerous drugs cooked up all too often in filthy conditions with no regard to safety, giving Americans who purchase them the ultimate raw deal," Tandy said.

In recent days, underground labs were raided in the United States, Canada and Mexico, where the finished drugs were often manufactured in unsanitary conditions, including in bathtubs and bathroom sinks, authorities said.

The drugs were packaged in slick, professional-looking vials with authentic-looking pharmaceutical labels, complete with supermarket-style bar codes.

Among those arrested in California were Ryan Hansen, 27, a Chico bar bouncer, who drug agents allege received illegal shipments of anabolic steroids from China. Hansen and another man arrested in the crackdown, Tyler Stumbo, 23, of Bakersfield, face up to five years in federal prison if convicted.

"Both these guys were major dealers in their areas," said McGregor W. Scott, U.S. attorney in Sacramento.

Scott raised concerns about the wealth of information available on U.S.-based websites about getting and using steroids. "Conversion kits" enable a buyer to convert raw powders into a finished product. Discussion boards for bodybuilders often yield information about how to discreetly purchase steroids, human growth hormone and other illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

"The illegal users of steroids look to skirt the timeworn adage of physical fitness -- no pain, no gain," Scott said.

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eric.bailey@latimes.com

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