A nervous time for sports dopers

Remember BALCO? At first it seemed like a weird little sports story, but before long it created this yawning chasm that swallowed some of the biggest names in athletics.

Well, Germany just had its BALCO moment, and the implications are international.

(I don't assume this has anything to do with the NBA. But I similarly don't assume it has nothing to do with the NBA. You know what I mean?)

The story is that there has long been a shadowy company called International Pharmaceuticals that supplies all kinds of anabolic steroid users. One of the founders of the company has reportedly admitted to having authored, under a fake name, the 1000-plus page bible of taking such drugs, called "Anabolic Steroids -- The Black Book."

For decades the company has been known to be operating (at one point even giving an anonymous interview to some musclehead magazine) but impossible to pin down. Recently, however, authorities busted their way into a warehouse in rural Germany and found millions of pills, ampules and syringes, worth a fortune. It took 19 pallets to haul it all away. And there have been many arrests, including of IP's founder and his longtime accomplice, a dishonorably discharged German police officer.

In the German magazine Spiegel, Cathrin Gilbert (translated by Christopher Sultan) writes:

The defendants have already been questioned. Lothar H. is in pretrial detention in Giessen, while Paul R. is being held in Wiener Neustadt, south of Vienna. The prosecutors expect to file an indictment within the next four weeks. The two men are said to be willing to cooperate. The respective attorneys of both defendants, Lothar H. and Paul R., were unwilling to comment on the charges when approached by SPIEGEL.

One thing is certain: There must be plenty of athletes who are suddenly feeling very nervous. ...

A business relationship apparently existed between someone at IP and an Austrian sports manager. In an interrogation, the investigators discovered that the manager had a list of the names of many international professional athletes who had ordered performance-enhancing drugs from him.

The list was not found during an initial search. The agents suspect that the document was shredded.

They are confident, however, that they will eventually be able to reconstruct the list.

It's worth reading the whole article -- not with a "gotcha" attitude, like there are sure to basketball players on the list. (There's no suggestion of any NBA or basketball player involvement at all.) But instead to be aware of what's possible, and what's happening, in sports here and around the globe. If athletes are getting away with taking substances that would help in hoops, the place for those athletes to realize the most value of those drugs is in the NBA. We can't reasonably not pay attention.