- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

The owner of three of the world’s largest anabolic-steroid manufacturers was arrested yesterday by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents as part of the largest steroid operation in U.S. history.

DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy said “Operation Gear Grinder,” a 21-month Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation, successfully targeted eight major steroid-manufacturing companies, their owners and their trafficking associates.

Albert Saltiel-Cohen, identified as the owner of Quality Vet, Denkall and Animal Power, was described as a “significant” source to U.S. suppliers of nandrolone, an anabolic steroid that made headlines when some top athletes — including British sprinters Linford Christie, Mark Richardson and Dougie Walker — were banned from competition after failing tests for the drug.

“Drug traffickers prey on the belief that steroids enhance ability, but steroids only rob that ability, as we have seen so often from the affected lives of too many youth and professional athletes,” Mrs. Tandy said.

DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney identified the other companies as Laboratorios Tornel, a supplier of testosterone decanoate; Laboratorios Brovel, a supplier of nandrolone decanoate; Pet’s Pharma, a source of testosterone enanthate; Syd Group, a source of stanozolol; and Loeffler, a source of methandrostenolone.

Mr. Courtney said the eight companies used U.S.-based e-mail addresses and listed each manufacturer with a business Web site to connect with American consumers. In addition, he said, steroids from the companies were shipped to U.S. traffickers, who resold them.

By reviewing the sources of the seized and analyzed steroids, Mrs. Tandy said agency specialists found that 82 percent of the drugs were of Mexican origin. She said a large majority of those steroids came from the eight companies and produced about $56 million per year through Internet sales.

Mrs. Tandy said the manufacturers tried to mask the true consumers of their steroid products by marketing them as being developed and sold for use in animals.

She said communications on the Internet and parcel distributions were the core of the companies’ operations, noting that the Web sites showcased the products and offered an e-mail address to exchange prices and tracking numbers.

Mrs. Tandy said the steroids were supplied to numerous pharmacies south of the Mexico border, where U.S. customers could purchase and smuggle them back into the United States.

In addition to the Saltiel-Cohen arrest, DEA agents also took into custody four steroid-trafficking suspects in San Diego and Laredo, Texas, and identified more than 2,000 U.S. customers who had received the steroids, including individual users, street-level dealers and organized trafficking groups.

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