The Godfather (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday March 11, 2008 12:07PM; Updated: Tuesday March 11, 2008 3:47PM
Fitton found a pharmacy in Opelika, Ala., that stored the drugs. The supply channel was blessedly straightforward. Fitton would make occasional trips to Spain and Italy, where steroids were legal -- "I'd clean out the pharmacies in Milan," he says -- and fill up his luggage. He would also make periodic jaunts from San Diego to Mexico in a cheap rental car. "The old cars were better, because you could pull door panels off and load s--- in places," he says. "That's what we used to do."
Even as Fitton was purchasing huge quantities of steroids, his enterprise was unnoticed by law enforcement. A rumor surfaced in 1983 -- bogus, it turned out -- that Dianabol was going off the market. Fitton rushed to his Alabama pharmacist and ordered as much as he could get: 10,000 bottles. "The pharmacist, the distributor and the companies didn't bat an eye," says Fitton. "They knew damn well the pharmacy didn't need 10,000 bottles for legitimate reasons."
Fitton was unencumbered by any moral hang-ups; he saw steroid experimentation not as deviant behavior but as an expression of creativity and ingenuity. Doping, he felt, was a tactical matter akin to, say, applying grease to the legs before deadlifting in competitions so the bar would slide up the body. "If you were working out and you wanted to get the most you could [out of it], you took steroids," he says. "What if a writer could take a smart drug and extend his career? Is that ethically wrong?"
In his quest for better drugs, Fitton started to experiment with veterinary products. "At first people said, 'No way, Tony,' " he recalls, "but then everybody was trying it." The most potent anabolic he ever dispensed was a since-discontinued medication called Cheque Drops. Used to keep female dogs from going into heat, the drug had nearly six times the anabolic capacity of the testosterone he was selling to athletes. As Fitton became an authority on animal products, more athletes turned to him with questions. One strength athlete, who now works for an NFL team, showed Fitton a bottle he'd purchased for $500 that purported to contain gorilla growth hormone extracted from the animal's brain. After examining the bottle, Fitton informed the lifter with a laugh that he'd been duped into buying a few bucks' worth of Deca. "I asked him," Fitton says, " 'How common do you think gorilla brains are? It's a bloody endangered species!' "
As his client list expanded -- as if on steroids -- Fitton was remarkably open about his dealings. He adorned the Christmas tree in his Auburn apartment with steroid bottles instead of ornaments. One year he dressed as Santa Claus, photographed himself pretending to stick a needle in his buttocks and sent the photo out as a holiday card. He looked into changing his phone number to 1-800-hormone. Alas, it was taken.
"I had no contact with him," says Kim Wood, the Cincinnati Bengals strength coach from 1975 through 2002, "but it was known in the strength world, if you wanted to cheat, this guy, working out of a little post office in Alabama, was the guy. Tony Fitton was doctor and pharmacist."