TAMPA, Fla. – A central Florida man arrested with thousands of anabolic steroid pills told investigators he sold to professional athletes, including players on the Washington Nationals and Capitals, authorities said Wednesday.
Richard Thomas boasted about selling steroids to professional baseball, hockey and football players, saying: “You name the sport, and I’ve sold steroids to athletes who play it,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
Authorities said Thomas didn’t name specific players, and they have no evidence he sold to members of those teams.
“We support Major League Baseball’s testing program. I think it’s good, it’s working. And if there’s any truth to it, it will come out,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said before his team played the Mets in New York.
“Every one of these kids in front of me behave the proper way, so you know, we’ll see.”
Investigators who searched Thomas’ house in Lakeland on Tuesday recovered thousands of anabolic steroid pills, injectable liquids and syringes with an estimated wholesale value of $100,000, said Carrie Eleazer, a spokeswoman with the sheriff’s office.
They also found several weapons, including loaded semiautomatic handguns.
Thomas and his wife, Sandra, were charged Tuesday with several counts of possession of illegal steroids, firearms, and maintaining a dwelling for drug use.
Thomas and his wife were booked into the Polk County Jail on $215,000 each. Sandra Thomas posted bond and was released on Wednesday. Richard Thomas remained in jail and was expected to appear in court Thursday.
Capitals players passed three rounds of drug tests during each of the past two seasons, and neither the team nor officials from the National Hockey League had reason to believe Thomas’s claims, the league and the team said in a joint release Wednesday.
A spokesman for Major League Baseball, which has been randomly testing for steroids since 2004, said the organization is looking into the matter. Nationals president Stan Kasten said he had been in touch with MLB and didn’t have any cause for concern.
“For now, the story is what it is,” he said in a conference call. “I don’t know anything more than that.”
Nationals outfielder Austin Kearns said the team laughed about the allegations.
“It seems like there’s always something brewing, or talked about. But I mean I don’t know any cause for concern for anyone here,” said Kearns.
“We’re concerned enough with trying to win some baseball games,” Kearns said of Washington, which entered Wednesday with the worst record in baseball (13-32). “Anything else is just kind of, you know, whatever.”
His 24-year-old teammate Ryan Zimmerman, a rising star who had a 30-game hitting streak earlier this season, is confident that he and his teammates have nothing to worry about.
The Nationals roster has an average age of 28, and many of the players began their careers after minor league testing started in 2001.
“There was a problem before and there’s no getting around that, there’s no forgetting about that,” Zimmerman said.
“I think we can assure people with the amount of people that have been caught, and big name people that have been caught the past year or two, (MLB) have done their job and they’re doing their best to keep it out of the sport.”
Local authorities executed search warrants in Lakeland, about 50 kilometres east of Tampa, after receiving information from agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Philadelphia.
Thomas told detectives he imported steroids from all around the world, including Iran, Pakistan, Slovakia, Russia, China, Turkey, Spain, Mexico and Germany.
The sheriff’s office said both Thomas and his wife were semi-professional body builders, and that he claimed to be the largest steroids dealer in central Florida.
“He was very boastful,” Eleazer said.
“I think any time anyone gets caught with that now, it’s going to be, ‘I was giving it to this person, or this team or that someone,” Zimmerman said. “I think it’s kind of sad that that’s what sports in America has come to.”
Thomas’ mother told detectives the suspect was introduced to steroids by his father. When asked about steroids, Thomas told investigators, “It’s all I’ve ever known,” according to the sheriff’s office.