Last week, New Times revealed at least two Miami Police officers had been customers of Biogenesis, the notorious Coral Gables steroid clinic at the heart of Major League Baseball's biggest doping scandal, and that a former Florida Department of Health investigator refused to involve the force in his case after steroids went missing from an evidence room. So the timing was auspicious when, the same day the story landed, the Miami PD announced the force was close to instituting steroid testing for all of its cops.
Sgt. Javier Ortiz, the police union chief, says the timing was simply a coincidence. "I've received quite a few phone calls from officers and from the press, but there's no correlation there," Ortiz says. "They asked us to consider starting this last spring."
Whatever the spark for the Miami PD's shift, the department is now poised to become the first of Dade County's major police forces to regularly test for steroids; Miami Beach police don't include steroids in their regular tests, Det. Vivian Hernandez, a department spokeswoman, tells Riptide.
MDPD, meanwhile, only drug tests officers when there's a reasonable suspicion of abuse; theoretically they could test an officer suspected of juicing for steroids, but that's apparently never happened. "I've been here 21 years and I don't recall anyone ever being tested for steroids," says Michael Edwards, Miami-Dade County's labor relations manager.
Ortiz tells New Times he's signed off on most of the provisions to begin randomly testing officers beginning next month.
Nationally, some large forces -- including the NYPD -- have similar policies. Most instituted them after local scandals; NYPD added its steroid tests, for instance, in 2008 when scores of its cops were tied to a Brooklyn pharmacy shut down for illegally dealing the bodybuilding drugs.
In Miami, veteran Sgt. Jose Gonzalez confirmed to Jerome Hill -- then a Florida DOH investigator looking into Biogenesis -- he was a customer but said that he believed its owner, Tony Bosch, was a licensed doctor and that he was being treated for a legit medical condition: hypothyroidism.
He fingered another officer, Sgt. Raul Iglesias (who's now serving a five-and-a-half-year prison term for ripping off drug dealers) as the cop who referred him to Bosch, who pleaded guilty in federal court last week to illegal testosterone distribution.
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But Miami PD spokesman Delrish Moss told the Miami Herald it wasn't Gonzalez's story that changed the policy; rather, the move came after concerns had been raised about "rage-like" outbursts from cops abusing the drugs. Ortiz tells New Times he's seen no evidence of widespread steroid problems.
"As a law enforcement officer, I have no problem with the testing because it's an illegal substance," Ortiz says. "But I haven't seen any blatant abuse."
It's not yet clear where funding will come from for the tests or how extensive they'll be. Tests to catch the widest range of steroids can cost up to $150 a pop, and the thousand-plus cops on the Miami PD are randomly screened for drugs up to twice a year. That means the new plan could easily top $300,000.