Bodybuilder Phillip Musson's dark secret

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 20/08/2014
phillip musson
CHRIS SKELTON
STEROID DEALER: Philip Musson during sentencing at the Auckland District Court today.

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Phillip Musson was told to get fit or die young.

He worked a stressful job, smoked cigarettes and drank too much alcohol. His health had deteriorated and his weight had ballooned to 120kg.

That doctor's visit in September 2003, Musson says, changed his life. He became a gym junkie and lost 50kg in 12 months. A year later he won a New Zealand bodybuilding title.

Yesterday, Musson - also known as Dr Phil, Giant or Big Guy - was jailed for four years, five months and three weeks for masterminding the importation, sale and supply of steroids and party pills. He had earlier admitted dozens of charges, including more than 180 brought under the Medicines Act.

It is the most substantial prosecution of its kind in the past five years.

Ministry of Health figures show that over that period seizures of performance and image-enhancing drugs have more than trebled. Last year, 340 parcels containing drugs were intercepted by authorities, compared to 89 in 2008.

Officials warn that use of steroids can lead to high blood pressure, liver damage, changes to the heart, breast growth in men and shrinking of the testicles.

Musson, 45, a self-employed personal trainer, declined to comment through his lawyer Simon Clay.

Court documents obtained by The Press detail how a man once viewed as a role model to young bodybuilders became the kingpin of a sophisticated, nationwide mail-order steroid and party pill dealing operation.

Investigators said he had unexplained income of at least $795,958 from April 2010 to March last year. Medicines and drugs worth more than $1 million were seized during the operation.

The police asset recovery team is trying to strip Musson of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of assets, including gold, silver, cash, vehicles and his family home in Bishopdale, Christchurch.

His wife, Lesley, and her mother, Anne Hammill, both live at the property. They declined to comment.

Musson's father James, who lives in Kaikoura, said he was shocked to learn of his son's offending.

"He kept it a secret."

Sources close to Musson said he grew up in a working class family in Christchurch.

"He was just a normal chap battling away and his doctor told him he needed to lose weight," one source said.

"He made a good job of doing that but then he became . . . a gym junkie. Obviously he learned there about these [drugs]."

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Bodybuilding sources said Musson's arrest was no surprise. His method of sale was blatant - sending bulk text messages to people in the sport advertising what he had to offer.

"When he popped his head up he went so f. .g hard, it was ridiculous," one source said.

"He's an idiot."

The Auckland District Court yesterday heard that Musson was left depressed and financially bereft after the Christchurch earthquakes, which had destroyed his personal training business.

He hatched a plan to import, manufacture and supply performance-enhancing drugs, including anabolic steroids and testosterone, and sell them to bodybuilders under the brands Titan and CN Pharmaceuticals.

Musson sourced the ingredients online from Hong Kong and China and collected them from post shops using fake driver licences.

The licences were produced by graphic designer Brodie Gilles Thompson, 30, who was paid about $1500 for his work. Thompson later admitted forgery and was sentenced to 150 hours' community work.

Court documents show that Musson's plan unravelled after a parcel containing steroids was intercepted at the International Mail Centre in Auckland in November 2011.

The find sparked Operation Adder - a joint Customs, Police and Medsafe investigation.

At the same time, Musson was also selling party pills made by fellow bodybuilder and Hamilton City Council employee Chetan Viraj Jethwa. At its peak, that operation netted them $55,000 a week. They were arrested in May 2012 after raids by investigators.

Jethwa pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months' home detention and 300 hours' community work. Musson denied charges relating to the operation.

While on bail he teamed up with one of his customers, Christchurch man Rodney Bailey, 61, and continued to import and sell steroids under the brand Phoenix Biotech until police raided his home again in February last year.

Bailey was sentenced to seven-months' home detention for his role. He was receiving treatment for prostate cancer, one of the possible consequences of steroid use.

Musson took to Facebook to defend himself. "The stress these raids cause and the toll it has on family and health are immeasurable," he posted online. "This is all over substances that enhance people's lives."

Weeks later, Musson admitted dozens of charges relating to the offending.

In an interview with police after he was arrested in 2012, he said he was more knowledgeable about the use of steroids than most health professionals in New Zealand. Musson claimed doctors in Christchurch sought advice from him about their use, although he refused to name them.

Medsafe compliance management branch manager Derek Fitzgerald said the products Musson sold were not up to pharmaceutical standard and posed a risk to users.

Last week, personal trainer and world champion bodybuilder Stephen Orton, 24, also from Christchurch, was sentenced to seven months' home detention and 150 hours' community work after he admitted importing two packages of the Class C drug methylone from China. *Additional reporting Kelly Dennett

- The Press

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