After the arrest Auburn fired Fitton. Still, he remained in town, dealing and researching steroids as intensely as ever. He says he advised or sold drugs to athletes and coaches at Auburn, Baylor, Maryland, Nebraska, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin, among others. College players often found him through local weightlifters. "I called the cops on Fitton on several occasions because I knew what was going on," says Virgil Knight, an Auburn strength coach at the time. "But they had bigger fish to go after. They said, 'Steroids? That's a third-class drug.'"
One former Fitton client who played football at a major college program and went on to the NFL, who spoke with SI on the condition of anonymity, says that he never saw Fitton in person, instead placing his orders over the phone. And, though he never set foot on the Lincoln campus, Fitton alleges that several members of the Nebraska football team were regular clients, including Dean Steinkuhler, the 1983 Outland Trophy winner who later, wanting to come clean, admitted to SI that he used steroids.
Other college players, including Nebraska offensive tackle Todd Carpenter and Wisconsin center Dan Turk, were listed in the ledger documenting Fitton's steroid business. He recalls that before the 1984 Orange Bowl he received a call from a nervous Husker complaining that he and his teammates had mistakenly left their methyl testosterone—a chewable supplement that rapidly increases testosterone levels and is thought to foster aggression—back in Lincoln. Fitton says that he obtained a couple of bottles and sent them overnight in time for the national title game against Miami, which Nebraska lost 31--30.
Before the '84 Summer Games, Fitton consulted U.S. athletes and foreign Olympians training in the States and created a brochure of clearance times, a copy of which SI obtained from a former powerlifter. Athletes could consult the document to learn how long they had to abandon a cycle before a test. (Meanwhile, antidoping fervor was rapidly intensifying; with evidence mounting, the American College of Sports Medicine had reversed its stance and asserted that steroids "may" enhance athletic performance, and soon other fitness organizations followed suit.) Fitton affixed his name and number to the pamphlets and made photocopies for roughly 100 athletes and coaches. When a U.S. track and field coach left several copies in a training facility, Fitton received calls from ABC, NBC and CBS on the same day. Fitton remembers telling the careless coach, "You don't have to apologize, but you've got to realize that people aren't as open about this as you and I are."
After that incident Fitton changed his phone number and took inventory of his drug contacts. He realized that he had about 2,000 active clients and reckoned that by this time he'd talked to as many as 10,000 steroid users about their experiences, side effects and muscle growth. "It was like one big research trial," he says. "I kept all the [scientific] information in my head."
While hundreds of thousands of dollars moved through his accounts, Fitton lived simply. His biggest indulgence was paying for powerlifting friends to travel to international events. If clients couldn't afford a cycle, Fitton might give the product away. He claims that he let one Auburn football player open a metal cabinet in his apartment and take whatever steroids he wanted.
Fitton had little interest in currying favor with star athletes. He did most of his business over the phone, taking orders and giving advice starting at 8 a.m. Some days he mailed dozens of boxes of steroids. He'd sit and chat and drink Scotch and wrap up business by 11 p.m. He attended only one football game, reminiscing that a charm of living in Auburn was that on fall Saturdays, while 85,000 people flocked to the stadium, the rest of the town was quiet.
At one point Fitton claims he was supplying steroids to "a good few in the WWF." Mostly to put a face with a prospective client's phone voice, he watched a wrestling broadcast and didn't like the swaggering, neon-cowboy persona of Randy (Macho Man) Savage. Fitton says that it was only after another client, the late John Minton (a.k.a. Big John Studd), vouched for Savage's "real life" character, that he agreed to add Savage to his client list. "Nice guy," says Fitton of Savage, who has publicly admitted to trying steroids. (Savage didn't respond to calls seeking comment.)
FITTON'S SECOND arrest came in the fall of 1984 when U.S. Customs agents apprehended him in the border town of Tecate, Calif., for attempting to transport more than 2,000 boxes of Dianabol into the U.S. (He also had notes from multiple doctors approving his transit of drugs; one claimed he was participating in a scientific study on hair loss.) No one had yet been federally prosecuted for bringing steroids into the States, so Fitton was unfazed by his arrest. That changed when the prosecutor, Phillip Halpern, an assistant U.S. attorney based in San Diego, made it clear that he would seek prison time. "I wanted to put steroids on the map," Halpern told SI.
Pleading guilty to two counts of steroid trafficking and one count of making false statements to a federal officer, Fitton posted bail of $7,500, then went on the lam for nine months. He settled first in Columbus, Ga., where he concealed his identity by tanning, lightening his hair and jogging daily to slim down to 180 pounds (from 220). Then he went to Albuquerque to watch a competition in which his then girlfriend, Vicki Steenrod, a five-time world champion powerlifter, was participating. Halpern says today that if Fitton hadn't run, he might have gotten off on probation. But after he was picked up in New Mexico, he was sentenced to 54 months in prison.