A husband and wife arrested in one of the largest steroid raids in Florida history say they sold the illegal performance-enhancing substances to players on the Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals.
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.
Mr. Thomas told detectives that he sold steroids to professional athletes in several sports and named the Capitals and Nationals as teams whose players were his clients, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
” ‘Name the sport - if they played it, I sold it,’ ” Sheriff Judd said Mr. Thomas told detectives. “Then [he] went further and specifically mentioned two professional sports teams from the Washington, D.C., area whose players he had sold steroids to - the D.C. Nationals baseball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team.”
Mr. Thomas did not, however, provide the names of specific players or say when any sales occurred. Authorities said they had no evidence to support the claim and that they are investigating the matter.
Capitals President Dick Patrick said the team still is collecting information but at this point sees no credibility in the claim.
“We have 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,” Mr. Patrick said.
Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, said the league will conduct an investigation and that both the league and the club are cooperating with law enforcement officials.
The investigative unit of Major League Baseball will conduct an inquiry on behalf of the Nationals, league spokesman Rick Levin said.
Nationals President Stan Kasten said he had faith in the league’s anti-drug policy, which includes frequent testing of players and penalties for those who fail.
“Players run afoul of our rules. They are caught, and they are disciplined,” Mr. Kasten said. “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 concerned about by MLB, at all. So for now, the story is what it is. I don’t really know any more than that.”
Current and former Capitals players reacted with surprise to the allegations, 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 don’t know, you see guys. Guys aren’t extremely ripped or anything.”
Capitals right wing Eric Fehr had a similar reaction.
“I can honestly say I’ve never heard or seen anything about steroids in our dressing room,” Fehr said. “That’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. Honestly, we have steroid testing - that would be the stupidest thing in the world to take something. That’s not even something I’ve even thought of thinking with any guys on our team.”
Nationals players were just learning about Mr. Thomas’ claims as they arrived at Citi Field in New York late Wednesday afternoon for a game against the Mets.
“I don’t make anything of it,” right fielder Adam Dunn said. “I think it’s some guy who’s basically got his back pinned to the wall, and that’s it.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested the Thomases after learning from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in Philadelphia that the couple were expecting a shipment of steroids to their Lakeland, Fla., home. ICE agents and undercover Polk County detectives worked together to seize the shipment, uncovering more than $100,000 worth of drugs plus syringes, books and other steroids-related paraphernalia. Officials also discovered several loaded weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle.
Detectives plan to examine the contents of a seized computer, a process that will be slowed because the county has only two full-time computer technicians on staff, Polk County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer said.
ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas declined to comment, citing an ongoing federal investigation. She said no federal charges against the Thomases have been filed.
Mr. Thomas, 35, and Sandra Thomas, 49, are semiprofessional bodybuilders who competed together in mixed competitions in Florida. Neither had retained an attorney as of late Wednesday, though Mrs. Thomas was expected to be released on bond Wednesday night.
Mr. Thomas told police that he had been dealing steroids for more than a decade and claimed he once was the biggest dealer in Florida. When asked by detectives whether he was addicted to steroids, he replied, “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
According to affidavits, the Thomases possessed and imported as many as 10 different substances, including the anabolic steroids boldenone, methenolone, nandrolone, oxandrolone and oxymetholone, all of which appear on the list of substances banned by Major League Baseball. The substances also are banned by the NHL, which uses the list maintained by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The Thomases also are 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, though neither league tested before 2005.
Researchers who study steroids and sports were skeptical of Mr. Thomas’ claims, arguing that anabolic steroids would be easily detected by most testing programs and that athletes now are more likely to take specially formulated “designer” drugs or human growth hormone.
They said testosterone use is possible but that most athletes involved in steroid use get their substances from agreeable doctors or other sources perceived as legitimate. Neither of the Thomases appears to have any medical credentials.
“I’ve been saying for years that most of these guys don’t go to black-market sources,” said Charles Yesalis, a professor of health policy and administration at Penn State University.
In 2007, Major League Baseball 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 players appeared on the Mitchell Report, including reliever Ron Villone, former catchers Paul Lo Duca and Gary Bennett, and former outfielders Nook Logan, Terrmel 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 pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally distributing steroids and human growth hormone.
Under an agreement struck in 2006, baseball imposes a 50-game suspension for a first positive test, a 100-game suspension for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. The NHL in 2005 instituted a 20-game suspension for a first positive test, a 60-game suspension for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.
Several baseball players have received 50-game suspensions since the league’s penalties went into effect, including Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez, who this season was found to have received a banned hormone from his doctor.
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 because of positive tests during Olympic preparations.
Mark Zuckerman and Corey Masisak contributed to this report.