A former professional cyclist who served a two-year suspension for doping pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to conspiracy to distribute two performance-enhancing drugs.
Joe Papp, 34, of Bethel Park, was selling human growth hormone and another drug, erythropoietin, known as EPO, online.
He will be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster on June 25. Mr. Papp could face an advisory sentencing range of 10 to 16 months in prison.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy for selling the substances between September 2006 and September 2007. During that time, Mr. Papp sold about $80,000 worth of drugs to approximately 187 customers.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Houghton, Mr. Papp’s supplier was in China, and his customers included cyclists and other athletes both in the United States and around the world.
They submitted payment through a private mailbox at a UPS store in Bethel Park.
The plea agreement in the case is sealed, so it is unclear if Mr. Papp is cooperating against anyone.
On his website, Mr. Papp represented himself as a “USA Cycling Elite Coach.” He finished in the top 10 at the UCI Pan American Continental Championships road race three times between 1996 and 2005.
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Papp’s Chinese connection is identified only by the name “Chen” and authorities did not say if that person would be charged. The evidence against Papp is largely in e-mails between him and his customers, a Web site he operated through which the drugs were sold, and a private mail box where Papp allegedly received the drugs.
“The e-mails would also show that no prescriptions were written by medical doctors and that the drugs were sold for use to enhance athletic performance,” Houghton told the judge.
Papp testified that the hormone “definitely does have a beneficial therapeutic effect” and said it was possible to elude detection in drug tests by using a gel form of the hormone at specific times after races.
Papp had testified that he started using testosterone after first using EPO, a hormone produced by the kidney that stimulates the production of red blood cells. Use to treat certain forms of anemia, the drug helps athletes by increasing the capacity of their blood to carry oxygen.
In the Leogrande case in 2008, USADA attorneys introduced cell phone records showing more than 270 calls and texts between Papp and Leogrande, and pictures of Leogrande holding vials of EPO at Papp’s home.