AUTHORITIES fear an Australian expatriate in China is the mastermind of an Olympic doping operation after a giant steroids shipment was discovered entering Sydney.
Customs agents intercepted 40kg of steroids on a shipment from China at Port Botany, prompting a global investigation involving US drug investigators.
They have tracked the source of the drugs to an Australian-born man who is based in China.
Authorities fear he could be part of a syndicate attempting to supply substances to cheating athletes at the Beijing Olympics in August.
"He is possibly targeting the Olympics," Australian Customs national investigations manager Richard Janeczko said.
"Customs is working with international partners to establish his whereabouts in China. But given where the Games are being held it is a concern."
It is understood Customs has been working with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority in a bid to establish possible links with Australian athletes. None have been found.
It also has been working with Chinese anti-doping agents and the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
The record haul was intercepted in March last year at Port Botany.
The steroids were disguised in bulk canisters labelled "amino acids".
The shipment, in powder form, weighed 80kg, with 40kg of the active performance-enhancing substance.
"We believe there is a demand for this sort of stuff in Australia," Mr Janeczko said. "These quantities most likely would have been turned into tablets or capsules."
He said China was a logical source of performance-enhancing drugs because of its vast chemical industry.
"The Chinese are really being quite cooperative," he said. "Because of China's large chemical manufacturing sector, both it and India are the places you go to get this stuff."
ASADA chief executive Richard Ings said that while he could not comment, "as a matter of policy, there is a seamless sharing of information between ASADA and Customs on matters of mutual interest".
Australia's anti-doping agency is one of the few to boast investigative powers and an ability to access intelligence from other agencies such as the Australian Federal Police, Customs, the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
ASADA is also the first anti-doping agency to establish a long-term holding facility for athletes' blood and urine samples.
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