Madrid - Spanish police on Thursday said they had broken up an EPO trafficking ring that shipped the banned endurance-boosting drug to both amateur and professional athletes across Europe.
The network was run by several Serb nationals, one of whom lived in Barcelona, a police statement said. The drug was sourced through Spaniards with links to a dialysis clinic in the southern port city of Cadiz.
EPO, or erythropoietin, is a natural hormone, produced in the kidneys, which helps regenerate the red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body.
It is used as a performance-enhancing substance because it boosts the capacity of blood to carry oxygen to the muscles. The drug is banned by the world doping watchdog.
Investigators said they were putting together a list of possible recipients, among them "a large number of athletes, both in Spain and abroad, from different sporting disciplines and levels, who were seeking these substances to increase their physical capabilities."
Speaking to AFP, a police spokesman refused to identify any of the suspected recipients, saying their names would be passed on to the relevant "sporting and judicial authorities".
Six people have been arrested or detained for questioning in Barcelona and in Cadiz, police said, one of whom was running the dialysis clinic.
The network had been operating for "at least 10 years," police said.
The products were advertised on at least seven different websites in multiple languages.
Investigators also discovered hundreds of pre-filled syringes inside the clinic that were kept in dubious storage conditions.