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He was also an admitted steroid dealer who was outed in 2007 by Yahoo! News as the source for former NFL quarterback Tim Couch. (Couch later admitted to buying HGH from Yusem but denied taking steroids; he was suspended six games by the NFL in 2007 for violating league drug policy.) "I think we can create a race of super-athletes," Yusem had told Yahoo!, bragging that an unnamed NBA veteran, a retired MLB player, and a top golf pro were working with him to develop drugs for young athletes.
Woliner was shocked to find that despite such obvious public admissions, neither Yusem nor his drug supplier — a hair-replacement specialist with a blinding smile named Dr. Glenn Charles — had ever been touched by authorities.
Woliner vowed to see justice done. But even he didn't know how hard that would prove. "Not only did I file a complaint with the DOH; I also filed one with the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office," Woliner says. "Neither aggressively pursued this."
Woliner is an unlikely champion for reform. An excitable, fast-talking doc who earned his medical degree at Tampa's University of South Florida before moving back to his hometown, he'd never been a snitch. But then, in 2006, the DOH cited him for misdiagnosing a patient's thyroid condition, fined him $5,000, and required him to take a course on medical regulations. Instead of viewing the class as an annoyance, Woliner jumped into the state's rules like a biblical convert consuming the New Testament.
He learned the DOH was the brainchild of Dr. William G. "Doc" Myers, a wheelchair-bound Republican state representative from Hobe Sound and a medical doctor. In 1996, the Legislature named a bill after Myers that split the behemoth Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services into two pieces that handled public health and social services.
For years, the DOH seemed to be improving a reputation sullied by years of news reports about missing children and forgotten elderly. A new enforcement wing recruited ex-cops and state investigators to craft criminal charges against unlicensed practitioners, while regulators ensured bad doctors faced discipline from state boards.
Then, in 2011, Rick Scott ran for governor, making no secret of his disdain for health-care regulators. Before turning his sights to politics, Scott had founded Columbia Hospital Corp. — a firm that later ended up paying a record $600 million fine after pleading guilty to 14 felony counts of defrauding Medicare.
In his first budget, Scott helped the Legislature strip $55.6 million from the DOH, a move that led to 229 layoffs, mostly in county health departments. The governor also began appointing apparatchiks who favored small government and less regulation.
"The people coming in were all political folks, and their direction was all coming straight from the governor's office," says Daniel Parker, who spent 14 years working in the DOH before quitting over his concerns with Scott's management. "What was driving all this was an ideology that wants to get rid of government altogether."
In the seven months before Parker departed in June 2012, nearly a dozen other top-level administrators had quit or transferred. Among them was Scott's first choice to run the DOH, Frank Farmer, who resigned after less than a year on the job.
That turmoil has had wide-ranging ramifications, from the closure in July 2012 of A.G. Holley Hospital — the only tuberculosis facility in a state that has seen the disease spike — to rock-bottom morale.
But no problem concerns Parker as much as the ongoing effects of the cutbacks on the DOH's Bureau of Enforcement. "I understand when people say they want less government," he says. "But... do you really believe your doctor will do a good job with no oversight at all?"
In 2007, federal agents with battering rams beat down the door of a third-floor office in a quiet corner of Palm Beach Gardens. Inside a clinic called the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, they found packages stuffed full of stanozolol, an anabolic steroid; and dozens of cartridges of Genotropin, the most popular human growth hormone on the market.
The raid was the culmination of the largest sting organized on Florida's booming anti-aging industry. A three-year investigation, cheekily titled "Operation Which Doctor," had involved federal and state agents as well as prosecutors from New York state who sparked the probe by looking into internet pharmacies selling steroids online.
The trail had led to the small clinic and to an Orlando-area compounding lab called Signature Pharmacy that provided most of the meds. Among the clients were a host of professional ballplayers, including Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons, and all-pro NFL safety Rodney Harrison.
A year later in an Albany courtroom, the clinic's owners — a former nightclub impresario named George Stephanos and his brother Glenn — pleaded guilty to, respectively, a misdemeanor and a felony count of attempted sale of a controlled substance. Their ex-partners, including noted Palm Beach youth sports supporter Joseph Raich and a physician, Dr. Robert Carlson, had already pleaded to their own felonies.
The Albany prosecutors were elated. "This should put them out of business," Assistant District Attorney Christopher Baynes gloated to the media.
But five years later, many principals in the case are right back in the Florida anti-aging game. Despite his felony conviction in New York, Glenn Stephanos has a new clinic three miles south of the former offices of the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, according to state records. His business is called Palm Beach Preventative. Its website offers "testosterone therapy" and "bio-identical hormone replacement."