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SI reporters witness raid

Florida steroid sweep could implicate more athletes

Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 10:36PM; Updated: Monday March 12, 2007 5:56PM
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One Orlando pharmacy alone did $17 million in business with the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, authorities said.
One Orlando pharmacy alone did $17 million in business with the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, authorities said.
Bob Rosato/SI
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As part of a broad operation to crack down on the sale of performance-enhancing drugs over the Internet, authorities raided an Orlando pharmacy and a Jupiter, Fla., "anti-aging" clinic Tuesday morning. Sports Illustrated reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim accompanied investigators on the Jupiter raid, which authorities believe will reveal a trove of athletes as clients. SI.com caught up with Llosa and Wertheim in South Florida on Tuesday night.

SI.com: What did you witness?

Llosa/Wertheim: This sweep was part of an ongoing operation that involves a number of agencies at both a federal and state level. A really wide net has been cast here.

Shortly before noon, a team -- equipped with a battering ram and bulletproof vests -- descended on Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center. The name of the place is a lot sexier than reality. The offices were on the third floor of a nondescript, mustard-colored building -- the kind of place people drive by and pay no mind to -- a mile or so from the Atlantic Ocean. We saw arrests being made, but clearly investigators were more interested in what material evidence they might find.

SI.com: What do investigators allege?

Llosa/Wertheim: Authorities are concerned about how easy it is to get steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) over the Internet. As an investigator explained it to us, a client using a credit card can "visit" an anti-aging clinic or wellness center on-line, such as Palm Beach Rejuvenation. The customer fills out a brief questionnaire, indicating he'd like to buy such-and-such products. An operator -- and we spoke with several Palm Beach employees Tuesday who likened their office to "a call center" -- speaks with the consumer, takes down some cursory information, and basically takes an order, often for a controlled substance, according to investigators. The operator processes a prescription with a doctor, who is often in a different state (and often being paid, we're told, as much as $50 per script to rubber stamp each order). The signed prescriptions get faxed to the compound pharmacies that know from the very beginning that there is no doctor-patient relationship. The pharmacy then sends the product to the customer. In short, it all makes for a sort of pharmacological Ponzi scheme.

SI.com: How common is this?

Llosa/Wertheim: Well, put it this way: authorities tell us that Signature Pharmacy in Orlando, which was also raided on Tuesday, did $17 million in business with Palm Beach Rejuvenation alone. When Diamondbacks pitcher, Jason Grimsley had his home raided last summer, he admitted to investigators that he was well aware of a conduit between steroids/HGH and wellness centers.

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