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Doping trade worth billions: ARD team exposes world-leading dealers

ARD’s Doping Editorial Team has revealed a key figure in the international doping trade in its new documentary: “Doping Top Secret: DEALER”.

Hajo Seppelt and his team prove that Denmark native Jacob Sporon-Fiedler, who resides in India, illegally imported anabolic steroids into the European Union. Sporon-Fiedler orchestrates the operation with his Mumbai-based company Alpha Pharma, a key player in a growing global industry.


Lasting over two years, the team’s research kickstarted a journey around the world: from India, Denmark and Singapore to Northern Ireland, Poland and Paraguay. The result is a unique inside view of an international doping trade, with estimated annual turnover of around 15 billion euros.


Dealers often benefit from a law enforcement focus on the trafficking of hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

“Steroids is, as I would say, a modern crime,” says John McLaughlin, a long-time investigator with the UK’s National Crime Agency.

“And the beauty of it for a criminal is that it’s low risk because nobody’s really looking at it. It’s only some steroids. You’ll hear that. But it’s high value, high profit.”


McLaughlin, who now works for the World Anti-Doping Agency, tells of his biggest coup in “DEALER”. After an adventurous hunt, he succeeded in 2018 in arresting Jacob SporonFiedler, an elusive phantom in the doping scene but one of its biggest players. The Dane sought once again to avoid international attention after serving his prison sentence.


In the Indian port-city of Mumbai the ARD team found potential partners for producing doping substances and their illegal distribution in the European market. The journalists also received indications that Sporon-Fiedler was again involved in the doping business.

ARD’s team then paid him a visit under a false identity and, using hidden cameras, ordered doping substances to be delivered to Germany. After Sporon-Fiedler successfully had them delivered illegally, it was clear: he was back in business.


In “Doping Top Secret: DEALER”, a doping cook shows how easy it is to produce banned substances. The film also tells the story of André Böge: a former professional soldier who, after establishing his own doping business based in Lower Saxony, earned thousands of euros per week. Böge, who also consumed his own products, consequently suffers from severe physical damage today.


André Böge said: “Buying and selling doping products was my everyday routine. I always had stuff available. It was like an addiction.”

He also sold the life-threatening substance DNP. The drug, which is popular in the scene for losing weight, leads to an overheating of the body in case of overdose, which cannot be stopped even by medical emergency measures and inevitably leads to death.


The Northern Irish doping investigator McLaughlin believes that much of the business with body cult and sports fraud works far too easily. “The days of people robbing a bank with a shotgun are gone, smart guys sit in their office in Mumbai and have people on the end of their BlackBerry doing stuff all over the world. And they make lots of money. The risk of them going to jail? Very low.”

Credit: Hajo Seppelt, Jörg Winterfeldt, Peter Wozny, Wigbert Löer

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