Enforcement operation hits sport doping rings

An international enforcement effort has led to the seizure of 3.8m doping substances and counterfeit medicines.

Operation Viribus – coordinated by Europol and led by Italian and Greek police – is the largest action of its kind and resulted in the dismantling of 17 organised crime groups and the closure of nine underground laboratories in the EU that were producing the illicit products.

234 suspects have been arrested, and almost 1,000 people have been reported for the production, commerce or use of doping substances. Just under 24 tons of raw steroid powder were also intercepted.

The haul included doping substances, dietary supplements, medicines and sport and food supplements, based on anabolic steroids or other substances that are misused by athletes and gym-goers in the hope of improving endurance, reducing body fat and stimulating muscle growth.

“These substances can severely damage human health, said Europol in a statement on the operation. “They increase the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis, damage the reproductive system, the liver and the kidneys and increase the risk of cancer.”

Among the trends uncovered during the operation is that wholesalers are importing huge amounts of steroids to feed the market, and there is loose network of non-professional athletes, bikers and body-builders who are buying small parcels of steroids – mainly from Asia or eastern Europe – to traffic them to gyms.

There has been an increased use of social media to promote and sell the illicit products and “continuous growth of unauthorised and unregulated online pharmacies, also on the dark web,” says Europol.

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