PITTSBURGH – A pharmacist has been sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison after pleading guilty to helping a former Pittsburgh Steelers team doctor illegally distribute anabolic steroids in an investigation spun off from a national crackdown on the performance enhancing drugs.
William Sadowski, 47, of Robinson Township, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute anabolic steroids and human growth hormones, or HGH, and was sentenced Tuesday by Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill Jr.
Sadowski has acknowledged helping Dr. Richard Rydze illegally distribute the body-building substances and other drugs used to prevent their negative side effects or, at least, mask their use. On Tuesday, the married father of two told the judge he let greed and profit cloud his judgment.
"I started worrying more about the bottom line than doing the right thing the right way," Sadowski said, tearfully.
Rydze, 62, has denied wrongdoing, pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial in the alleged steroids conspiracy that began a few months after the Steelers cut him from their medical staff in 2007 after more than two decades.
The team and Rydze have previously said he didn't supply steroids to Steelers players, though the investigation that targeted Rydze and Sadowski spun off from a national probe that included Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., which was identified as a supplier in U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's landmark 2007 report on steroid use in Major League Baseball.
The Alabama pharmacy was raided in August 2006 and shut down by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Its customer list included baseball players, including Gary Matthews Jr., some World Wrestling Entertainment personalities, and former heavyweight boxing champ Evander Holyfield, who has denied using steroids, let alone obtaining them from APS. The Alabama raid resulted in the conviction of five staff pharmacists, and several doctors across the country who obtained steroids illegally through the pharmacy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Kall argued that Sadowski deserved prison to deter other pharmacists, and because he knew he was operating his Pittsburgh-based ANEWrx pharmacy illegally.
"He was essentially living a double life," Kall said, referring to 20 friends and family members there to support Sadowski.
Among other things, Kall said Sadowski "took over" the Alabama pharmacy's business once it shut down. Sadowski also faces sentencing March 4 in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court for filing fraudulent Medicare claims at a previous pharmacy, Kall said.
Sadowski's defense attorney in that case, James Wymard, attended the federal court sentencing and said he's hopeful Sadowski's sentence on those charges, filed by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, will run concurrent to the federal sentence.
Federal prosecutors said Sadowski's pharmacy was licensed to dispense prescription drugs in at least 44 states and that he hired a registered nurse, John Gavin, 51, to "research the status of criminal prosecutions across the county for illegal distribution of anabolic steroids and HGH." Sadowski's pharmacy allegedly developed drug combinations, or "stacks," that included steroids, HGH and other substances — many used to legitimately treat breast cancer and other maladies — that, when taken with the steroids, were meant to prevent their undesirable side effects.
Gavin has previously pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing March 26.
Rydze's patient base was so broad in Pittsburgh that federal authorities took the unusual step of having FBI agents from Ohio investigate. Kall, the prosecutor who handled Tuesday's sentencing, is also based in Cleveland, where U.S. Attorney's spokesman Michael Tobin declined comment on the sentencing.
Among other things, Rydze had a contract to perform physicals for the agents who worked at the Pittsburgh FBI office, and at least one staff member in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Pittsburgh was a patient of Rydze's. Neither that person nor any FBI agent is accused of obtaining steroids from the doctor.