– It was 2008 and Walter Reynolds was bankrupt.
On his last roll of the dice, the 63-year-old gym enthusiast decided to get into the supplements business, selling performance-enhancing peptides, steroids and other restricted substances from an office tucked away in a Sydney business park.
Before long, business was booming and Mr Reynolds with the help of his Uzbekistan-born wife, Nailia Zinatoulina, and a former Mr Australia champion body-builder, Colin Murphie, was earning up to $30,000 a week through his company Emortal Essence.
He later told police he and his wife ran 17 bank accounts and distributed hundreds of peptides, steroids and other restricted drugs each week.
But they did not know the police were watching.
Between February and June 2011, an undercover officer bought steroids and peptides from Mr Reynolds eight times, according to court papers.
The investigation into the nationwide supply ring was handed to the New South Wales and Australian Crime Commissions, which soon launched the biggest probe yet into peptide and performance-enhancing drug use in Australian sport.
Mr Murphie gave the officer body-building advice and Ms Zinatoulina facilitated the payments and postage of items, and gave him a price list of 46 restricted or prohibited substances ranging in price from $10 to $1800.
On July 14th, 2011, officers arrested the pair and some customers including a Hells Angels bikie, Maurice Jolicouer, 28, and Said Sergeyevich Shavershian, known in underground body-building circles as Chestbrah and the brother of the late pin-up boy Aziz “Zyzz” Shavershian.
Shavershian, who was arrested in his Fitness First uniform with five vials of steroids on the front seat of his car, told officers he had been using them for six years because he was a very image-conscious guy, a statement of facts tendered to Sydney’s Parramatta Local Court revealed.
Strike Force Observer, set up to investigate drug supply by bikie gang members, had smashed an extensive network supplying athletes, bikies, body-builders and gym employees in four states.
Among Mr Reynold’s clientele was Stephen Dank, the former Essendon sports scientist at the centre of the investigation.
It is understood Mr Dank attended the clinic in 2010 to buy AOD9604, an anti-obesity peptide and a variant of growth hormone that has fat-burning properties.
The Australian Crime Commission report says the drug may be used by athletes to increase power-to-weight ratios by better utilisation of fat stores but notes it is not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Mr Dank is believed to be the common link among the six rugby league clubs and one AFL club implicated in the investigation. He later opened an anti-ageing clinic that sold peptides in Bondi in Sydney. He did not return calls on Monday.
Senior police are unaware if Strike Force Observer was the catalyst for the ACC’s year-long investigation. The commission declined to comment.
The results of Project Aperio have reverberated around the nation, with revelations that performance-enhancing drugs have infiltrated elite sports facilitated by sports scientists, high-performance coaches and sports staff.
Officers intercepted hundreds of shipments from Mr Reynold’s office, including one to a fitness company in Perth that had ordered 143 restricted items in one email.
Police seized $28,000 cash and raided two storage units, owned by Mr Reynolds and his partner, where another $45,000 cash and 2000 items of steroids, peptides and other restricted substances were found.
Mr Reynolds and Ms Zinatoulina were given a 12-month suspended sentence and a 12-month good-behaviour bond respectively.
Mr Reynolds said it was all in the past now. He works for his son’s strip-show business and owes thousands in unpaid rent according to his former landlord – Rachel Olding & Nick Ralston