A verdict is expected Tuesday in the trial of an Edmonton police officer accused of trafficking anabolic steroids between 2007 and 2013.
A former member of the Edmonton Drug and Gang Enforcement Unit, Det. Greg Lewis, faces three charges of trafficking in a controlled substance after he was arrested in March 2016 following a two-year investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
The 36-year-old was one of two officers charged as a result of the investigation.
Darren French, 51, pleaded guilty to two counts of trafficking in a controlled substance in June 2016. The then constable was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine as part of a sentence that included 18 months probation and 240 hours of community service.
Six officers were identified in the ASIRT investigation as having bought and used steroids in violation of the force’s code of conduct but investigators believed at least 30 officers had used steroids.
The probe, which focused on events dating back to close to a decade ago, was a public black eye for the Edmonton Police Service that’s only now just starting to heal.
At the time Alberta’s police watchdog announced Lewis and French had been arrested and charged, police chief Rod Knecht said it was an isolated incident but one that was still damaging to the image of the force.
“In large organizations like ours, there are always individuals who choose not to follow the rules and who ignore directives, common sense and even the law for their own personal benefit or advantage,” he said on March 7, 2015.
“These employees undermine community and they undermine the good work of their colleagues.”
Trial details use of steroid
Rumours had been swirling around for some time before Lewis and French came to the attention of investigators that there were members of the Edmonton Police Service using anabolic steroids.
But it took a tip from a private citizen to get the ASIRT investigation rolling in April 2013.
While there are legitimate medical reasons to use steroids and their possession is not a criminal offence, access to steroids is heavily restricted and regulated. Illegal trafficking of anabolic steroids is a criminal offence.
During the Lewis trial, city police officers offered various reasons as to why they were willing to turn to steroids to help them in their day-to-day duties.
Const. Craig Mathewson, who testified he bought two anabolic steroids from Lewis in 2009, said he did so because he was recovering from a leg injury and feared he might fail a mandatory fitness test that would have seen him removed from the drugs and gang unit. He bought Dianabol and Stanozolol (better known as Winstrol.)
Const. Kevin Yaremchuk who placed one order for liquid steroids Testosterone Cypionate and Deca Durabolin in 2009 and another order six months later for both drugs, as well as human growth hormone, said he did so because he was a fitness fanatic and was interested in muscular gains.
He testified he would later buy Winstrol from Lewis in 2012 after recovering from a snowboarding accident to help regain muscle mass.
Const. Sean Parker testified he and a colleague, who was not named, placed orders for a variety of drugs including Test-E or Testosterone Enanthate, a liquid steroid, through Lewis sometime between 2009 and 2010.
Two other officers, Sgt. Steve Maertens-Poole and Sgt. Adam Toma, both said they bought Winstrol to help lose weight and another officer, Const. Binoy Prabhu testified he was given M1T because he wanted to improve his workout regime.
Two officers, Yaremchuk and Toma, both later admitted wilfully making false statements to ASIRT investigators during the probe, which in itself was another hit to the creditability of the service.
At a police disciplinary hearing in 2015, Yaremchuk pleaded guilty to two charges under the Police Act, discreditable conduct and deceit. He was demoted for two years, a monetary penalty of $30,000 in lost pay.
His behaviour, in particular his admission of omission, prompted presiding officer Mark Logar to scold Yaremchuk.
“The need for absolute truthfulness should be part of any police officer’s character; it is instilled into recruits in the initial training emphasized at work and absolutely expected and required in court,” Logar said.
“Police officers cannot choose which laws they opt to follow, but nevertheless impose an expectation of stringent universal adherence on the citizens.”
Toma, who pleaded guilty to the same charges as Yaremchuk, was demoted for two years to constable, a monetary penalty of more than $20,700.
Furthermore, Toma’s dishonesty about steroid trafficking led to a mistrial in a cocaine case in which he was a key witness.
In the end, ASIRT’s investigation found there was no evidence to suggest that trafficking in steroids was a commercial operation and nor was the trafficking in steroids “a systemic or pervasive problem” throughout the police department.
It prompted the police to create an internal policy that prohibits officers from using or possessing steroids.
“Edmontonians expect their police officers to be honest and ethical and answer to a high standard,” Knecht said in an interview in March 2015.
“Behaviour contrary to these expectations brings reputational damage to our police service and violates the public trust.”
The verdict hearing will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
KNOW YOUR STEROIDS
Here are some interesting tid-bits about the steroids used by police members.
Winstrol, nicknamed Winny, is one of the most widely used steroids and, when stacked with other steroids and used in combination with a carefully constructed training regime, it can reduce body fat and preserve lean muscle tissue. It’s a controlled drug under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Probably the most famous case of the use of Winny was by Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson who tested positive for the drug after winning gold at the 1988 Summer Olympics. It can also be used for medical purposes and has been prescribed to treat osteoporosis and anemia.
Methyl-1-testosterone, or M1T, was marketed in the U.S. as a dietary supplement when it first hit the market back in the early 2000s and is considered a pro-hormone or a precursor. Once ingested the body metabolizes it into testosterone and is used to bulk up in a big way. But it’s also highly toxic and can cause serious liver damage. The U.S. banned it in 2005 but it has always been illegal in Canada.
Testosterone Enanthate, or Test-E, is used to treat people with low testosterone and unlike the other two substances this isn’t used for bulking up or cutting but it’s used in conjunction, or stacked with other drugs that do. It’s more of a multipurpose steroid that promotes and protects lean tissue and promotes greater muscular metabolism. It’s listed under the Canadian Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
Testosterone Cypionate, or Cyp, is quite similar to Test-E in its effectiveness; in fact the two are often used interchangeably.
Deca Durabolin, or Deca, is the brand name of anabolic steroid Nandrolone Decanoate, which is considered by many as being one of the mildest steroids around. Used by professional athletes like Major League baseball mega stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, it’s used to maintain lean muscle mass.
Dianabol, or DBol, is used to bulk up quickly. According to online forums, patients who use it can pack on 20lbs in mass in only a few weeks. With bulk comes strength. It was administered to the U.S. weightlifting team for the 1960 Rome Olympic Games.