Italian police seized 215,000 doses of prohibited substances as they broke up a ring that supplied steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to customers around the world, including American soldiers in Iraq, a police official said Monday.
The U.S. military there had no immediate comment, but steroid abuse has long been discussed as an issue in Iraq, where American troops and contractors work out in gyms on military bases and even in the mirrored halls of one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces.
Joseph Donahue, program director for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, who spent 16 months in Iraq -- often lifting weights in the gyms of Baghdad’s Green Zone -- said steroids were available to those who wanted them.
“I had them offered to me by an Iraqi guy who sure ... looked like he was using them,” Donahue said. “There were guys I’m pretty sure were juicing, but not a lot of them.”
Private security contractors said steroid use was a problem among their employees in Iraq because the drugs were so readily available there -- as easy to buy as a soda, according to one contractor.
The police investigation in Italy began after a post office in the northeastern city of Trieste reported that U.S. postal authorities in Iraq had returned hundreds of packets of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs because they were improperly addressed, said Mario Bo, head of the Trieste Police Department’s criminal division.
He said authorities arrested two Slovenians last month during a raid of an apartment in Trieste.
Sasco Tacs, 30, and Vesna Milosevic, 20, were charged with trafficking in prohibited substances.
The drugs had been ordered over the Internet, police said, adding that steroids were also sent to customers in Europe, North America and Australia.