Italian police have busted a criminal network who were trafficking doping products to customers that included professional athletes.
Assisted by Europol, authorities searched 210 houses all over Italy, targeting 74 athletes registered to sports federations as well as 11 gym owners and four owners of supplement businesses.
They seized nearly one thousand packs of medicines used for doping, as well as over 4,000 tablets and 7,700 vials of performance-enhancing substances, coming to a total value of more than €100,000.
Another 64 individuals are being investigated for suspected involvement in these criminal activities, while 30 others have been charged with less serious crimes.
The operation was a follow-up of a previous investigation into bodybuilders from Turin who were found to be in possession of a large amount of anabolic steroids, which had been advertised on mobile apps.
On the app, customers were directed to an encrypted chat in order to complete the purchase, with payments made via online money transferring services.
A new study by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found that being negatively labelled for reporting doping was the biggest barrier for potential whistleblowers coming forward.
Nearly a quarter of athletes and coaches interviewed said the possibility of being labelled a “snitch” for coming forward was their biggest concern, while the second most common barrier was that whistleblowing would damage their relationships in sport.
In February, Spanish police took down a doping wholesaler, seizing 1.6 million drug doses in the process.
They offered quantity-based discounts to other groups and used a network of collaborators who received the parcels of drugs at their homes. These were called “receiving centres”, with packages sent out from a logistics warehouse that only the two heads of the group had access to.
At one receiving centre, 84,000 tablets and 2,500 bottles of oral and injectable PEDs were found. Evidence of counterfeiting doping drugs was also discovered, an activity that was mostly undertaken in Catalonia.
The investigation began after 100 boxes of growth hormone were sent to the wrong address in July 2019.