September 18, 2015
Exposed: The squalid "labs" that are fuelling the doping crisis
They are images you would expect to see in an episode of Breaking Bad, but these shocking photographs were taken at an illegal underground drugs laboratory right here in Britain.
One of an increasing number of labs which are fuelling not only a steroid-abuse crisis in the UK but the supply of performance-enhancing substances to British athletes.
Athletes completely ignorant about the insanitary conditions in which such substances – that they are putting into their bodies – are produced. The pictures have been released to The Daily Telegraph by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) to highlight the dangers posed by products made in these labs both to the integrity of sport and the health of those who take them.
It follows the announcement this week of drugs busts at three such labs in Britain this year as part of a global operation to shut down the supply chain of steroids at source.
The lab opposite was also raided last year, but it and the three that followed are believed to be only the tip of the iceberg.
According to the National Crime Agency (NCA), which has been working with UKAD to shut down such labs, that is partly the result of a law passed in 2012 banning the importing of steroids. Since then, the NCA has noted an increasing trend of UK-based suppliers creating their own designer drugs, sometimes alongside dangerous recreational products such as crystal meth. UKAD, meanwhile, had spotted during its own investigations into doping offences that underground labs were sometimes involved, prompting it to join forces with the NCA last year in an initiative appropriately-named Operation Bloodthirsty. UKAD’s director of operations, Pat Myhill – who boasts 30 years’ experience in law enforcement with the Metropolitan Police, National Crime Squad and Serious Organised Crime Agency – said: “If you saw a photograph of what goes on at one of these labs, you wouldn’t really touch it with a bargepole. “They’re often – almost always – run in very unhygienic circumstances, mostly with untrained people – amateur chemists in effect. People are buying from a, quite often, sophisticated website without knowing the operation behind it. “They get something which is stronger or weaker than they expect, they may get something which is contaminated with other substances. They could actually get something which would cause infections or illnesses.” So seriously do UKAD take the issue that the trafficking of steroids made in underground labs has resulted in some of its biggest ever bans. Just last year, it handed a lifetime ban for the father of an amateur boxer, a four-year ban for the boxer herself and an eight-year ban for an amateur rugby player. One of the suspects in the case had become so ill through steroid use that police struggled to interview him. Also suspected to have been made in an underground lab are drugs bought by three schoolboy rugby players who were banned earlier this year, one of them for two years. “It’s a pretty horrible story,” said Myhill. “They learnt how to use those substances, and how to inject in particular, from YouTube, and they went and bought their hypodermic syringes and needles from the local chemist.” Myhill admitted working with law-enforcement had allowed UKAD to catch cheats who otherwise would have evaded detection. “Amongst the things that they seize, there will be paper records, there will be telephones and there will be computers,” he said. “And in those records, there will be customer lists. “Within those customer lists, we may very well find people who are involved in sports which are covered by the World Anti-Doping Code.” Asked whether any of Britain’s elite stars could be doping using steroids produced in underground labs, Myhill said: “My gut feeling is that isn’t the case. The kind of people who use these labs are middle and lower-tier athletes.” Many of them are from rugby, with 28 of 48 bans currently being served in the UK handed out to players from one of the two codes. But also very much at risk are those taking steroids for “image-enhancement purposes”, according to Myhill, amid reports up to one million Britons may be using them. “It’s not just about sport,” he added. “It’s also about the wider health implications.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/drugsinsport/11842898/Exposed-The-dens-fuelling-doping-crisis.html