Italian and Greek police lead the largest coordinated take-down of European UGLs producing anabolic steroids and doping products in history.
The Italian NAS Carabinieri and the Financial Unit of the Hellenic Police were the leaders in a massive investigation of anabolic steroid trafficking in Europe. The investigation was codenamed Operation Viribus.
Operation Viribus was the largest coordinated doping investigation in the history of the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol). The investigation resulted in the confiscation of 3.8 million illegal doping substances and counterfeit medicines. This included almost 24 tons of raw steroid powder. In addition to anabolic steroids, the seizure included illegal dietary supplement, medicines and food supplements.
Nine UGLs and 17 organized crime groups were affected by Operation Viribus.
Europol claimed to have shut down or significantly disrupted nine underground laboratories (UGLs). It dismantled 17 organizations involved in trafficking, arrested 234 suspects and identified almost 1,000 individuals involved in either the production, commerce or use of doping products.
The names of the UGLs busted during Operation Viribus have not been released. The photographs provided by the police intentionally blurred the brand names.
At least one of the labs was Alpha Pharma. Alpha Pharma was probably of particular interest to police. The owner of Alpha Pharma and the man-in-charge of importing Alpha Pharma products into Europe pleaded guilty to steroid trafficking earlier this year. They are awaiting sentencing next week.
Operation Viribus was assisted by INTERPOL, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Operation Viribus received the cooperation of 33 countries including the 23 member states of the European Union. The United States also offered its assistance.
Europol investigators noted a trend of small organized crime groups investing in clandestine underground laboratories to manufacture anabolic steroids. These groups have been successfully importing huge quantities of raw steroid powder primarily from China. They have also been increasingly involved in marketing steroids on social media and the dark web. Most of the groups use cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Monero, and rechargeable credit cards.
Operation Viribus resulted in only a minor disruption in the black market for anabolic steroids and doping products in Europe. Most consumers probably will not ever notice.
Europol. (July 8, 2019). KEEPING SPORT SAFE AND FAIR: 3.8 MILLION DOPING SUBSTANCES AND FAKE MEDICINES SEIZED WORLDWIDE. Retrieved from europol.europa.eu/newsroom/news/keeping-sport-safe-and-fair-38-million-doping-substances-and-fake-medicines-seized-worldwide