Puck Daddy - NHL

Please recall back in May 2009 when Polk County police arrested Richard Thomas and his wife, snagged "an estimated $200,000 in illegal steroids" and then heard Thomas claim he sold "mostly to professional athletes" and specifically to members of the Washington Capitals and Washington Nationals.

Capitals player rep Brooks Laich(notes) denied at the time that any of his teammates were on performance enhancing drugs, while Washington and the NHL both released statements saying the steroid claims were without merit before saying they were launching internal investigations into the matter. Nothing came of it, at least visibly.

As for Thomas, he pled guilty on Nov. 10, 2009 in federal court to "possession with intent to distribute anabolic steroids" and his sentence is pending.

That's where the case stood until Tuesday, when Polk sheriff's detectives and federal agents arrested Virginia chiropractor Dr. Douglas Owen Nagel on "one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance and seven counts of solicitation to deliver a controlled substance," according to the PCSO and The Ledger (Fla.). He's accused of purchasing nandrolone decanoate and other performance-enhancing drugs from Thomas.

The story took another turn later in the day when A.J. Perez of FanHouse reported that investigators on the case visited the Capitals' Kettler IcePlex training facility in Ballston, Va.

According to the Capitals, via a statement released Tuesday afternoon: "This has been a thorough investigation, and we are satisfied that law enforcement, the NHL and our own internal investigation have not led to any link of steroid use by Capitals players." (Full statement from the team later in the post.)

From FanHouse:

"Some of the names of Dr. Nagel's patients included both current and former Capitals players," Polk County Sherriff Grady Judd told FanHouse in a phone interview. "We need make it clear that we don't know at this point, that we don't have conclusive proof any of these players have purchased drugs from either Nagel or Thomas. That's still under investigation."

Amy Shipley of the Washington Post had more on the Thomas/Nagel connection:

Detectives found a shipping label in Thomas' home addressed to Nagel, and Thomas claimed that Nagel had bragged about supplying performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes in the Washington, D.C., area, the Polk County release issued Tuesday morning said.

Detectives obtained subpoenas for shipping labels on packages from Nagel to Thomas and allege that seven FedEx deliveries were made from April 4, 2008 to May 4, 2009. Both men told investigators the packages contained money from Nagel that was used to pay for shipments of anabolic steroids, the release said.

The Washington Capitals released this statement late this afternoon:

Florida law enforcement authorities have continued their steroid investigation following the arrest of Florida resident Richard Thomas in May 2009. The Washington Capitals are not the target of this investigation, and there is no evidence that steroids were provided to any Capitals players.

This has been a thorough investigation, and we are satisfied that law enforcement, the NHL and our own internal investigation have not led to any link of steroid use by Capitals players. 

The investigation included conversations with the Washington Capitals as far back as September 2009, and we were and have been fully cooperative and transparent in the past as well as today.

Dr. Douglas Owen Nagel, a Virginia chiropractor who was arrested today, is not affiliated with the Washington Capitals and is not the "team chiropractor," as he has stated. Dr. Nagel’s office, however, has seen some of our players for standard, routine chiropractic services.

As part of the NHL’s drug policy, Capitals players are randomly tested up to three times per year by an independent testing agency, which sends the samples to the World Anti Doping Association for testing. Capitals players have been tested twice so far this year. At no time in our history has a Capitals player ever tested positive.

The vibe I get is that this is just a procedural visit, since the investigators were in Northern Virginia for Nagel and hence "in the neighborhood" to chat with the players and any team personnel.

(It all sounds a lot tamer than words like "converged" and "raided" which were being thrown around ... too bad, because the idea that a horde of trench-coated Untouchables-style G-men overpowering the practice rink staff and tearing up the dressing room is pretty awesome.)

Today's news has sparked another round of speculation, "Ovie roid rage" jokes and some choppy public relations sailing for the team.

But this arrest does solidify a local link that wasn't there when it seemed Thomas was grasping at straws, and that's significant news in what was a dead story. There was a moment when some people -- this blog included -- thought Thomas was 'Keyser Soze'ing' a connection to the Washington teams during interrogation. Perhaps that wasn't the case.

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