U.S. authorities are investigating a sprawling underground distribution network for steroids, human growth hormone, and other illicit bodybuilding drugs supplied by 37 companies in China, the New York Times reports. “Operation Raw Deal” revealed a much wider, more diffuse commerce in performance-enhancing drugs than previously known, with bathroom and basement manufacturers and distributors. That contrasted with the more centralized drug network from past years that tapped into established pharmaceutical pipelines.
“There is no kingpin here,” said Steve Robertson of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “We're going after individual distribution cells. There's no godfather of steroids.” DEA estimates that 99 percent of illegal steroids originate with chemicals from China. Most of the 124 who were arrested in the operation were charged with distributing chemicals bought in bulk from China, which as host of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing has been under pressure to deliver a drug-free Games. They are accused of setting up labs in their homes, notably on Long Island, to press them into pills or cook them into injectable liquids. Sales of the products, which are illegal to buy without a prescription and illegal to sell without a federal license, were conducted with presumed anonymity on the Internet.