By Zachary D. Roberts
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Over the past 18 months, the NYPD has apparently experienced a rare epidemic in which a cluster of young, muscular cops have suffered a malady that usually strikes men over the age of 60: hypogonadism, or low testosterone.
The Voice has learned that the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office knows of 29 cops and at least 10 NYPD civilian employeesall well under the age of 60who have received prescriptions for hypogonadism.
The treatment for it just happens to be steroids.
Baseball's steroids scandal has broken wide open with last week's release of former senator George Mitchell's report on players who may have broken the rules of the sport by bulking up. That probe, which currently revolves around New York City, in part because of the alleged involvement of a Mets clubhouse employee, has spilled over from Queens into Brooklyn into the NYPD, where an investigation of steroid use by New York City cops is bubbling under the surface.
How closely the two drug scandals may be linked isn't known, but personal trainer Brian McNamee, who told the Mitchell commission that he injected Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens and other players with steroids, is a former NYPD cop who left the department in 1993 and later embarked on a career as a personal trainer who allegedly injected star athletes with drugs, according to ESPN.com.
As for the cop-steroid scandal, when the story first broke in October, NYPD officials repeatedly said that only six officers were believed to be involved. Spokesman Paul Browne has maintained that none of the cops were selling steroids and none will be arrested, though they may face departmental discipline.
Unlike baseball, the NYPD does not test its officers for steroids, but it's a little early for department officials to make sanguine predictions. Brooklyn D.A. Charles "Joe" Hynes's office is still in the middle of its investigation and, according to law-enforcement sources, will present a case to a grand jury sometime within the next several weeks.
Unlike baseball players, the NYPD's cops are forbidden to talk to the press without permission. But people close to the probe, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say that in the probe of cops' steroid use, investigators from the State Department of Health have given the D.A. almost a dozen boxes of records gathered during three raids at Lowen's Pharmacy in Brooklyn. Officials have also seized millions of dollars of human growth hormone (HGH) and steroids from that Bay Ridge pharmacy. The most recent raid was on December 3. Hynes won't comment other than to confirm that there is an investigation.
But sources tell the Voice that one officer bought more than $25,000 worth of steroids in a year, an amount that is impossible to claim as personal use. Cops found to have filed false insurance claims or sold steroids could face the possibility of criminal charges, as could cops who've received prescriptions for steroids unless it's determined that they're for legitimate medical reasons.
But that's just the steroids angle of the investigation. Investigators are still sifting through 4,000 to 5,000 HGH prescriptions filled at Lowen's in the past 18 months. Dr. Harry Fisch, a professor of clinical urology at Columbia University, says there are only two legitimate medical reasons for an adult to be prescribed HGH: to offset the loss of body mass and muscle for people in the advanced stages of AIDS and to treat a rare pituitary condition.
Those HGH records at Lowen's could open up a Pandora's box in the largest police department in the nation. NYPD officials have kept a lid on the steroids angle of the probeamid grumbling in the ranks. The fact that the two highest-ranking officers caught up in the probe so fartwo deputy chiefs, Mike Marino, executive officer of the Brooklyn North patrol, and Jack Trabitz, head of the property-clerk divisionwere not suspended and appear to have been cleared despite admitting they received prescriptions for testosterone has Patrick Lynch, president of the rank-and-file patrol officers' union, crying "favoritism." Trabitz didn't return calls seeking comment. One cop has told the Voice that Trabitz, who is in his 50s, "looks like he could be a running back in the NFL, he's that big." Marino came forward after his name was leaked to the press. Reportedly, however, he was cleared after being questioned by the Internal Affairs Bureau, which found his prescription to be legitimate.
Marino tells the Voice that he can't comment "because there's some litigation going on around this right now." John Driscoll, outgoing president of the Captains Endowment Association, the union for those with the rank of captain and above, says that that Marino and Trabitz not only voluntarily talked with IAB investigators but also took drug tests and passed them. At this point, Driscoll says, they are "accused of nothing."
Previously published reports didn't detail what Marino's supposed ailment was, but law-enforcement sources tell the Voice that Marino told IAB investigators that in addition to being treated for a low sex drive, he had been prescribed the drug to lose weight.
"That's not a legitimate reason for using anabolic steroids," says Dr. Gary Wadler, author of Drugs and the Athlete and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List and Methods Committee. "It's not a weight- reducing drug."