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2 admit to involvement with steroids

A Tampa Police Department recruit has resigned and a one-year officer is awaiting discipline after the two admitted to investigators that they were involved with illegal steroids. Recruit Michael Cuervo, who started at the Tampa Police Academy in early July, told investigators he purchased $100 worth of steroids in August, but destroyed them instead of using them.

Officer Richard M. Politano, who joined the department in September 1989, said he was twice given steroids by friends since April. He also said he destroyed them and therefore never used them. But, police say, he should have written a report about the incidents to be investigated later by detectives.

Both men said they never have used the drugs while serving with the department, records from the internal affairs bureau say. Although steroids help build muscle mass, their use, sale and possession is illegal unless prescribed by a physician.

Cuervo, 23, a former Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office corrections officer, resigned Friday as a result of the investigation. Politano, 25, who joined the department in September 1989, was taken off street patrol and assigned to administrative duties. He is awaiting discipline that will be decided by Chief A.C. McLane.

The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office also is investigating whether some of its employees have been involved with steroids.

The Tampa Police Department internal investigation began in early October after detectives with the Sheriff's Office told police officials that two of their officers' names had come up during a sheriff's undercover investigation into steroid distribution in the county.

Cuervo and Politano were interviewed by Assistant State Attorney Lee Atkinson, who decided that neither would be charged with a crime because they have been so cooperative in the larger investigation, records said.

That investigation includes the arrest in September of health club owner Frank Calta on charges that he sold fake steroids and the arrest earlier in the summer of Stephen Hagstrom, a friend of Calta's who was charged with possession of steroids. Cuervo and Politano were acquainted with Calta and Hagstrom and sometimes worked out in Calta's gyms, records said.

According to records, Cuervo told sheriff's detectives that he began using steroids in 1985 and continued to use and buy them after he became a corrections officer in 1987. Early this year, he began training at Calta's gym on Waters Avenue.

Cuervo admitted buying $100 worth of steroids in August in the parking lot of Calta's gym, the only purchase he has made since joining the police department, he told sheriff's detectives.

Politano told sheriff's detectives and Tampa Police Department investigators that he began using steroids while in college in Tampa in 1986. He said he did not know they were illegal.

In mid-1987, Politano moved to New York and continued what he referred to as his "body-building career." While there he was given a legal prescription to buy steroids. He returned to Tampa in 1989 to become a police officer and stopped lifting weights. He told police investigators that he has not used steroids since becoming an officer.

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