A Los Angeles-based cyclist pleaded guilty on Wednesday to procuring performance-enhancing drugs from Europe and China and selling them to professional and amateur athletes online, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Nicholas Brandt-Sorenson, 35, entered his plea to a federal court on Wednesday, admitting to a misdemeanor count of introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce, according to court records.
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He could have faced up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine when he is sentenced on July 20, but prosecutors have agreed to ask a judge to sentence him to three years of probation, 300 hours of community service and a fine of $5,000.
Brandt-Sorensen ran the website Anaemia Patient Group, which claimed to offer information about various performance-enhancing drugs and advertised substances banned by WADA, such as erythropoietin (EPO) and chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), according to his plea agreement.
In his plea agreement, Brandt-Sorenson admitted to selling a vial of EPO to an athlete in Boulder, Colorado for $631.
EPO is clinically prescribed for kidney disease and anemia, but is notorious as a performance-enhancing drug in sporting circles, with athletes using it to increase their red blood cell production.
Also available on the site was Actovegin, a derivative of calf’s blood which improves absorption of glucose and oxygen uptake in tissue and was mentioned in US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong as one of the substances allegedly taken by the USPS team in the 2000 Tour de France.
The website claimed the substances were for “research purposes,” according to court papers.
Using the name Eric Horowitz, Brandt-Sorenson would conduct business for the blog and sell the drugs, his plea agreement stated. He admitted to having the drugs shipped from overseas to his home in Los Angeles, before sending them on to several athletes, according to court papers.
None of the athletes were identified in his plea agreement, which was filed on February 16.
At least three athletes have been sanctioned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in connection with a probe into the Anemia Patient Group site. It’s unclear if any of the three knew of or had any connection to Brandt-Sorenson. The sanctions were announced in June 2015 by USADA.
Wisconsin-based cyclist Kyle Schmidt and Palm Springs-based triathlon athlete Brook Radcliffe each accepted a two-year sanction for the use, attempted use and possession of synthetic EPO.
Robert Radcliffe of Salt Lake City accepted an 18-month sanction for the use, attempted use and possession of synthetic EPO and human growth hormone. His sentence was reduced because he “provided substantial assistance” during the probe, according to USADA.
USADA previously suspended Brandt-Sorenson for two years beginning September 4, 2011, after he returned a positive test at the 2011 USA Cycling Masters National Road Race for Efaproxiral, which artificially enhances delivery of oxygen to the tissues.
Brandt-Sorenson is now retired from competition and currently runs an eponymous clothing line for cyclists, according to a biography published on the clothing line’s website.