- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A husband and wife arrested in one of the largest steroid busts in Florida history claim they sold the illegal substances to players on the Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals during a decade-long run as one of the most prominent steroid-dealing tandems in the state.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday arrested Richard and Sandra Thomas on 10 counts of steroid possession with intent to distribute, 10 counts of importing the drugs, and one count of maintaining a dwelling for drug sales.

Richard Thomas boasted to detectives that he was one of the most prominent dealers in central Florida. He claimed that he sold steroids to pro athletes in several sports, and mentioned the Capitals and Nationals by team name in interviews, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. Richard Thomas did not provide specific player names or indicate when the supposed sales occurred.

“Richard Thomas told Sheriff’s narcotics detectives when he was asked if he had sold steroids to professional athletes, ‘Name the sport — if they played it, I sold it,’ ” Judd said in a statement. “Then Richard Thomas went further and specifically mentioned two professional sports teams from the Washington D.C. area whose players he had sold steroids to — the DC Nationals baseball team, and the Washington Capitals hockey team. While he stated to detectives that he sold steroids to professional athletes on those teams, he did not mention any specific players’ names.”

Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten said the team would allow the league to work on its behalf and said he had faith in the league’s current anti-drug policy, which includes frequent testing of players with penalties.

“I don’t have any particular concerns, because as you all know, as you’ve seen in recent times baseball has the most effective and the most stringent program of testing and enforcement for performance enhancing drugs, Kasten said. “Players run afoul of our rules. They are caught, and they are disciplined. And all that is administered by MLB. And until I hear something from MLB to be concerned about, I don’t have anything to be concerned about. And I haven’t been told anything to be concered about by MLB, at all. So for now, the story is what it is. I don’t really know any more than that.

The NHL and Capitals said they are still collecting information but are cooperating with law enforcement officials.

“Even though there are no specifics provided in the story and we have no reason, at this point, to believe the allegations are true, the National Hockey League takes all matters of this nature very seriously and will conduct a prompt investigation, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said.

Capitals President Dick Patrick said the team has “no reason to believe there is any merit to the story, but the National Hockey League and the Washington Capitals take all such allegations seriously.

A number of current and former Capitals players reacted with surprise to the claims, saying they were not aware of any steroid use by teammates.

“No, never, not once — [steroids were] never talked about once,” said former Capitals defenseman Steve Eminger, now with the Florida Panthers. “We got tested two-three times a year. Never once — I dont know, you see guys. Guys arent extremely ripped or anything.”

Speaking on WJFK-FM’s “Big O and Dukes” show Wednesday, Capitals left wing Donald Brashear concurred.

“We get tested two-three times a year and there’s never been anybody who’s tested positive,” he said. “Was [Thomas] supplying this year? Was it a few years ago when there was no testing … to tell you the truth, if there was, I didn’t know. There’s no sign of anybody I know who used steroids.”

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested the Thomases after learning from Immigration and Customs Enforcements agents in Philadelphia that the couple was expecting a shipment of steroids to their Lakeland, Fla. home. ICE agents and undercover Polk County detectives worked together to seize the shipment, uncovering morethan $200,000 worth of drugs plus syringes, books and other steroid-related paraphernalia. Officials also discovered several loaded weapons, including an AR-15 assualt rifle.

An ICE spokeswoman declined to comment, citing an ongoing federal investigation. She said no federal charges against the Thomases have been filed.

Richard Thomas, 35, and Sandra Thomas, 49, are semi-professional bodybuilders, having competed together in mixed competitions in Florida.

Judd said Polk County detectives have yet to uncover any evidence to support Richard Thomas’ claims that he distributed to athletes, but that an investigation is ongoing. Richard Thomas told police that he has been dealing steroids for more than a decade, claiming that he was once the biggest dealer in Florida. When asked by detectives if he was addicted to steroids, he replied “It’s all I’ve ever known.

According sheriff affadavits, the Thomases possessed and imported as many as 10 different substances, including the anabolic steroids Boldenone, Methenolone, Nandrolone, Oxandrolone and Oxymetholone, all of which are on the the banned substances list for Major League Baseball. The substances also are banned by the NHL, which uses the list maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency. The pair are also accused of possessing and distributing three forms of testosterone, also banned by both leagues, and diazepam, a common drug used to treat anxiety. Diazepam has not been banned by MLB or the NHL.

Both leagues have anti-drug policies that call for frequent testing and suspensions for positive tests. In 2007, MLB commissioned former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to conduct an independent investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, resulting in the naming of more than 100 current and former players. Several current and former Nationals appeared on the Mitchell Report including reliever Ron Villone, former catchers Paul LoDuca and Gary Bennett, and former outfielders Nook Logan, Termel Sledge and Jose Guillen. Many of those named in the Mitchell Report were said to have ties with Kirk Radomski, a former Mets clubhouse employee who plead guilty to federal charges of illegally distributing steroids and human growth hormone.

Under an agreement struck in 2006, MLB imposes a 50-game suspension for a first positive test, 100-game suspension for a second and lifetime ban for a third. The NHL in 2005 agreed on a 20-game suspension for a first positive test, 60-game suspension for a second and lifetime ban for a third.

Several baseball players have received 50-game suspensions since the penalties went into effect, including Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez. The New York Islanders’ Sean Hill, who served a 20-game suspension in 2007, is the only hockey player to have been suspended by the NHL for a positive test. However, other players, including Capitals goaltender Jose Theodore, have been banned from international competition due to positive tests during Olympic preparations.

• Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com.

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