A Bulky Blue Line

Some police find the lure of strength-enhancing drugs impossible to ignore.

You'd have to have been blind and deaf over the past year to miss what is clearly an epidemic of anabolic steroid use among a certain elite segment of this country's population. Steroids make their users faster, stronger and bigger -- all clear advantages in a line of work that rewards physical superiority.

That group, of course, is cops.

"Steroid use, as it turns out, is the not-so-quiet little secret of state and city police departments across the country, not that this should come as much of a surprise," an attorney named Phillip Sweitzer wrote in a recent paper for DePaul University School of Law. "Police officers often find themselves in situations requiring the use of physical force to either subdue or restrain suspects to effect custodial arrests. Therefore, most are occupationally mandated, functional strength-athletes."

Sweitzer cites numerous instances of cops on steroids. There's no hard evidence that Denver's finest have been swept up in an epidemic of 'roid rage. But at least some of the men in blue have used the drugs. James Turney, the Denver police officer who shot and killed Paul Childs during a July 2003 domestic disturbance, admitted to "experimental" use of steroids in 1991 and 1992 on his police-academy job application, the Denver Post reported.

Other officers appear to have gone farther than the experimental stage. In late 2002, a package from England, sent to the Arapahoe County home of Denver police sergeant and former SWAT officer Thomas Lahey, was intercepted by U.S. Customs officials. Inside the package was an empty VHS tape box stuffed with nineteen ampoules of steroids.

In December 2002, law-enforcement officers dressed as mailmen delivered the package to Lahey's doorstep. When they approached his home again minutes later, the package had been placed back on the porch. "Inside the house," relates Arapahoe County investigator Mike Knight, "was ample evidence of steroids, including used and unused syringes."

They also found plenty of broken syringes; according to police reports, glass shards littered the sink. Still others had been washed clean, as if Lahey had known what was coming; the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was unable to locate any trace of steroids on the gear.

Paul Burek wasn't so fortunate. In early 2004, a Customs agent in San Francisco conducting a routine inspection opened a package with a postmark from Thailand and bound for Colorado. The contents of the box -- 1,010 pink, pentagonal tablets -- were sent to a federal lab for analysis and determined to contain methandrostenolone, an anabolic steroid. The label on the box listed the recipient as Burek, a Castle Rock police officer. During a search of his house, members of the South Metro Drug Task Force found copies of a magazine called Anabolic Insider, published in Aurora.

Burek confessed that he'd gone online and ordered $300 worth of the pills three weeks earlier. "I found a website for D-bol tablets," he admitted, using the slang name for Dianabol. "I knew the D-bol was illegal, but I purchased it for my own personal use, to bulk up." He insisted it was the first time he'd done such a thing.

In Lahey's case, criminal charges against him were dismissed in December 2003. "Lahey was never observed in possession of the drugs," says Arapahoe County DA investigator Knight. Today, Lahey works in the cop shop's airport precinct.

Burek, who no longer works as a cop, also escaped meaningful prosecution. This spring, he was given a deferred sentence for attempted possession of steroids. His record was wiped clean.

 
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