Bust Shows Florida Still Loves Steroids
Richard Rodriguez checked the $97,000 Rolex on his wrist again. A crowd milled outside the gate at Miami International Airport, waiting for boarding that was supposed to have begun five minutes ago for an early-morning flight to L.A. What was the holdup? The 37-year-old gym rat with a razored scalp and trimmed goatee fought off a rising panic.
A few minutes earlier, he'd received a frantic text message from a manager at Iron Addicts, the popular Arts & Entertainment District gym he owned. Federal agents had swarmed the place, ejected dozens of sweat-drenched bodybuilders, and barged into Rodriguez's office one floor above the neat rows of weights. As he stared at the plane idling outside February 22, 2017, Rodriguez knew the feds were hauling boxes of his records past musclebound clients on the sidewalk.letrozole powder
If the damn plane would just start boarding, though, he might just make it to the West Coast before the feds found him.But then a U.S. Marshal and several local cops stormed into the terminal. "Is Richard Rodriguez here?" one of them demanded as they scanned the passengers.
Rodriguez raised his hands and stood up. The agents slapped on handcuffs, carted the gym owner through the bustling airport, and drove him to his oceanside Miami Beach condo tower. He watched as agents in body armor led out his shackled wife, Nancy.
"I felt like I was the Pablo Escobar of steroids," Rodriguez says today, speaking by phone from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.
In fact, as the feds soon laid out in court, Rodriguez had built one of the largest online steroid operations in U.S. history. While celebrity bodybuilders flexed on Instagram inside his gym and hawked drugs from his website, Wellness Fitness Nutrition — WFN for short — Rodriguez sold nearly $10 million worth of steroids in two years. He bought a McLaren and a Mercedes-Benz SLS, gifted his wife Cartier jewelry and trips to Europe, and became famous in pro bodybuilding, where he was widely known as Dr. Rodriguez even though he had no medical degree.Now, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance and awaiting sentencing, Rodriguez has offered New Times an unprecedented look at how a steroid operation works today.
Interviews with the steroid kingpin and his associates, hundreds of pages of court filings, and thousands of sales records from his business make two things clear: Scores of clients, from attorneys to medical doctors to cops, brazenly bought his illegal products online before he was busted, and five years after New Times exposed the Biogenesis steroid clinic — which eventually led to an unprecedented round of suspensions in Major League Baseball — Florida authorities still have little interest in slowing the rise of unregulated steroid clinics in the state.
With drugs shipped in bulk from China and then mixed in legal pharmacies or Rodriguez's own labs, it was almost comically easy for WFN to sell powerful compounds banned by the FDA for human consumption. If a pair of snitches hadn't ratted out Rodriguez to the feds, he might still be lording over a musclebound Miami empire rather than spending his days in a New York prison cell.
"Florida is a vanity-driven state where the market for steroids is enormous," Rodriguez says. "Most of our profit didn't come from power builders or pro athletes; it was just regular guys like you and me."