A massive police operation that involved Europe's police agency (Europol), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and Italian and Greek police led to the seizure of 24 tons of steroid powder, 234 arrests, the closure of nine underground labs, and the dismantling of 17 organized crime groups, Europol said Monday.
"This is the sort of multi-party collaboration that produces real results and can make a significant impact on the availability of counterfeit and illegal drugs used by some athletes globally," said Gunther Younger, intelligence director at WADA.
The operation stemmed from urine and blood tests carried out by WADA officials at various sports events, though the body did not specify when and where the tests were conducted.
Officials said some 1,000 individuals have since been reported for the production, use, and sale of performance-enhancing drugs, and 839 criminal cases have now been opened.
WADA was influential in uncovering the complex trafficking system used to distribute the contraband drugs.
WADA said dealers used social media platforms to advertise their products. Non-professional athletes then used rechargeable credit cards and cryptocurrencies to purchase small amounts of the illicit drugs, which were distributed through gyms and online pharmacies.
The police operation, codenamed Viribus, was coordinated by Europol, led by Italy's Carabinieri and Greek police, and involved agents from Interpol, the Joint Research Center, and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
Some 23 EU nations and 10 non-EU countries, including Colombia, Switzerland, and the United States, also participated in the operation that netted 3.8 million illegal medicines.