The substances in question are anabolic steroids, including the male hormone testosterone and deca durabolin, which are illegal to use without a prescription. Those steroids can cause shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, baldness, development of breasts and an increased risk for prostate cancer in men. Women who take the drug can experience growth of facial hair and male-pattern baldness and see changes in their menstrual cycle, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The investigation began the week of May 20 when officials were told by the Marietta Cobb Smyrna Narcotics Unit that a county employee may have illegally used steroids. Originally targeting one former firefighter accused of using steroids in 2010, the investigation grew following claims that other firefighters and a police officer could be involved.
There are no indications the distribution or use of steroids took place on county property or while the employees were on duty.
Cobb spokesman Robert Quigley said the county would not comment on any resignations, suspensions or terminations associated with the investigation.
Firefighter admitting to selling steroids fired
A 27-year county firefighter with no previous discipline problems was terminated Monday after admitting he sold two vials of steroids in late December and early January.
Darnell Musgrove of Dallas initially told internal affairs investigators he used steroids about seven or eight years ago. But after agents said they had evidence of recent use, he changed his story, according to a memo obtained by the MDJ.
He admitted to using prescription and non-prescription steroids alongside each other and handed over two bottles of steroids he obtained illegally to investigators, according to the memo. He also said he resold bottles of testosterone.
“The two employees you identified have denied that you sold them illegal testosterone, although one admits that he met you, discussed a possible transaction, but then decided not to make the purchase,” said Fire Chief Sam Heaton in a letter Musgrove.
Musgrove is also accused of discussing the investigation after being told not to by internal affairs and refusing to submit to a polygraph test.
“It’s also clear from your statements and actions that you have not seen that such conduct is a problem,” Heaton said in the letter. “Neither does it appear that you have taken any steps to get help for your reliance upon an illegal substance.”
Two suspended for using steroids illegally
Firefighter Vaughn Zellers of Acworth and Engineer Jody Cochran of Douglasville have been suspended after admitting to using steroids.
Zellers allegedly lied during his first interview with internal affairs and then admitted to purchasing three or four vials of illegal steroids from a former fire department employee in 2008. He also admitted, according to a county memo, to meeting with a current fire employee to look at some vials of testosterone but denied making purchases.
The memo does not say if that employee was Musgrove.
Zellers has been suspended without pay for 10 days.
“While it does not appear that your illegal use of steroids resulted in behavior putting others at risk, I believe that your actions did at the time show a disregard for the responsibility you hold for the safety of others,” Heaton said in a memo dated Aug. 9.
Heaton told Zellers in a letter he considered the length of time since the alleged use and that he stopped using illegal steroids before his son was born in making a decision about suspension. The letter did not say how old his son is.
His service was also considered, Heaton said. The 15-year firefighter served in the U.S. Marines, a Woodstock police officer, and a firefighter, paramedic and hazardous materials technician with the Cobb Fire Department.
In a letter to the department, Zellers offered to educate other firefighters about the dangers of illegal steroids, and Heaton has mandated he develop a training class to that effect.
Cochran, a 25-year firefighter, has been suspended for three days without pay and told investigators he did not know he was using testosterone illegally because he had a prescription for it though he did not purchase it from a pharmacy. He admitted to obtaining two vials from a former fire employee.
“I did not really see anything wrong with it. I didn’t know if it was illegal or not (because) I had a prescription for it,” Cochran said, according to a memo dated Aug. 9. “I didn’t know there was a law if you got to get it straight from a pharmacy.”
Heaton found that problematic.
“Your paramedic position requires you to administer various medications through medical control approval, yet you consistently advised the (internal affairs) investigators you ‘saw nothing wrong with it’ when referring to the purchase of an illegal controlled substance,” Heaton said in the Aug. 9 memo.
No criminal charges filed
A fifth firefighter was cleared by investigators of any wrongdoing in the scandal after providing investigators with proof of a prescription for steroids and providing the county a letter from his physician explaining the result of his blood and urine tests.
Cobb police Officer E.A. Meadors was also accused of using steroids illegally and resigned from the department.
No criminal charges have been filed by the county against any of the men.
Kim Isaza, spokeswoman for the Cobb County District Attorney’s office, said these cases have not been referred to the D.A.’s office.