WASHINGTON - Washington Capitals players on Wednesday described their visits to a chiropractor arrested on drug charges as nothing more than routine treatments, while the sheriff leading the investigation said there's no "conclusive proof" that the steroids involved were supplied to athletes.
Douglas O. Nagel, who has treated several Capitals players and whose office is in the same suburban mall as the team's practice facility, made a brief appearance Wednesday in Fairfax County general District Court. He is charged with seven counts of soliciting to deliver a controlled substance, specifically steroids.
Nagel was arrested Tuesday, and authorities on the same day went to the Capitals offices to interview three players he has treated: Matt Bradley, Shaone Morrisonn and Eric Fehr.
"They were just basically asking us for information about what we knew, more about what our relationship was with him and not so much about him because, like I said, none of us know him personally," Bradley said in an interview posted on The Washington Post website. "We've been there for treatment and that's it, that's as far as it goes."
Morrisonn answered "No" when asked if he had been offered steroids by Nagel.
"We have nothing to hide here," Morrisonn said. "We're all tested throughout the year, the NHL has a testing policy and it's not an issue for this team."
Nagel has promoted himself as the "team chiropractor for the Washington Capitals." The team says no such relationship exists, and Bradley was the only player of the three who said he's been treated by Nagel recently.
"I don't think they were looking at our players," Fehr said. "I think they were more interested in finding out what the doctor's done and who he's been giving stuff to, so I don't think it was the players that were really targeted."
Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, in a posting on his blog, said the players could have legally declined to be interviewed.
"But our players have nothing to hide, and we decided to proceed. ... The law enforcement interview with each of them was extremely brief, and as soon as officers asked their questions, they quickly realized there was no other connection other than general chiropractic services," Leonsis wrote.
The Polk County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office alleges that Nagel received regular shipments of steroids, including testosterone and nandrolone, from Richard Andrew Thomas of Lakeland, Fla. Thomas has since pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing steroids with intent to sell. He awaits sentencing.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a phone interview Wednesday that "we don't have any conclusive proof" that any professional athletes were receiving steroids from Nagel. He praised the Capitals and the players who were interviewed, saying they were fully co-operative.
Interestingly, Judd said the NHL offices were far less co-operative. When his investigators spoke to members of the league's security office Tuesday, he said they were "more concerned with what jurisdiction we had," Judd said - a stark contrast to co-operation he received from the NFL and Major League Baseball last year when the investigation of Thomas began.
The NHL did not return multiple calls requesting a response to Judd's statement. The league's initial response to the investigation came Tuesday in a statement from deputy commissioner Bill Daly.
"Based on the investigation we have done and the information we have, there is no evidence that Dr. Nagel ever supplied (or even offered to supply) performance enhancing drugs to any current or past member of the Washington Capitals," Daly said.
According to an affidavit, Thomas told police Nagel boasted about supplying steroids to members of the Capitals and Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals. The Nationals have said they "have absolutely no association" with Nagel "and never have."
At his court appearance Wednesday, Nagel, who lives in Reston, Va., declined to waive extradition to Florida. A bond hearing is set for Thursday and an extradition hearing for next month.
Judd said his investigators want to know what Nagel did with the steroids he received from Thomas, an amateur bodybuilder. Nagel told police that the steroids he received from Thomas were for personal use. Judd said the quantities involve make that assertion absurd on its face.
Judd's department does not have jurisdiction to pursue charges against Capitals players if it were discovered that they illegally bought steroids from Nagel. But Judd said he plans to investigate fully, and would turn over the results of his investigation to Virginia authorities if prosecution is warranted.
"We pursue criminals wherever they are," Judd said. "We're chasing the steroids."
Associated Press Writer Matthew Barakat in Fairfax, Va., contributed to this report.