News 31st January 2020

Spain’s Civil Guard dismantles international EPO ring

Spain’s Guardia Civil has dismantled an international organisation that obtained erythropoietin (EPO) legally in Spain, then illegally sold it to athletes internationally through several internet sites. Following up on information provided by the Spanish national anti-doping agency (AEPSAD), the Guardia Civil seized over 850 syringes pre-filled with EPO, understood to be the largest such seizure in Europe.

Screenshot of the EPObest.com internet site…

The Guardia Civil has arrested and/or investigated six people with regards to crimes against public health, membership of a criminal organisation, money laundering, misappropriation, social security fraud and forgery. Agents identified at least seven internet sites set up to sell the EPO and other prohibited substances to athletes, such as www.epobest.com (pictured, right). 

This particular site was designed to sell prohibited substances internationally, as it features seven languages and several payment options, including cryptocurrencies (with a 10% discount for BitCoin). It appears to be owned by Comprarepo.com. 

The Guardia Civil said that the network was operated by several Serbian citizens, one of whom was based in Barcelona. A secondary group comprising Spanish citizens legally obtained drugs through a dialysis clinic in Cádiz. EPO was obtained by one of the members of the Cádiz group, who was head of a dialysis clinic and abused his position to alter the records of clinic patients in order to obtain a surplus. The drugs were stockpiled in a warehouse, where the Guardia Civil discovered the pre-filled syringes. 

The internet sites were hosted on servers in foreign countries using false identities. Instant messaging networks were utilised to communicate with customers, encrypted through an Austrian phone operated in Spain. Once ordered, the EPO was packaged containing cold plates which the Guardia Civil said was designed to make the product appear professional (EPO needs to be stored at below room temperature).

The Guardia Civil said that the group has been operating for at least ten years. More than €800,000 in various bank accounts, real estate and furniture has been seized, as well as €70,000 in cash. Data provide by the Andalusia Ministry of Health indicated that from January to June 2019, the group delivered 5,103 containers (equivalent to 8,000 to 10,000 units).

The Guardia Civil said that it is working with Europol to analyse computers, phones, and email accounts in Austria, Slovakia and Cyprus. ‘The result will be a comprehensive list of potential end users, among which are expected to be many national and international athletes from different sport disciplines’, read its statement.

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