High school students may be at risk

We are deeply concerned about allegations a steroid drug ring was operating in Greater Danbury for many years and targeting area high school students as customers.

A businessman from Bethel and another from Brookfield have been indicted on federal grand jury charges related to a ring that was allegedly selling steroids and marijuana.

Two other men, so far, have been tied to the marijuana part of the ring -- an ex-convict from Salem, N.Y., and a man from Florida with reputed connections to the Bonanno crime family.

All four maintain, through their defense lawyers, that they are not guilty, and indeed the cases must work their way through the judicial system.

At this early point, we have several observations and questions.

To hear the reaction of local government and education leaders, most expressed lack of knowledge of young people and others in their towns using steroids.

But according to federal prosecutors, there was enough of a market for steroids in the area for the Bethel man to sell 70 bottles a month -- at a cost of $90 each.

We urge schools to start or step up drug awareness programs so that students can learn of the long-term damaging effects to their health from using steroids.

Schools, coaches, fitness trainers and parents must counteract -- with reality -- the lure of following the sorry models set by some national sports figures.

Right now the case paints a broad brush. As soon as possible -- without jeopardizing the ongoing investigation -- we would like to see prosecutors name which schools -- if any -- were involved, so that leaders can respond with greater urgency.

How could a steroid ring operate in the area for five years unexposed? The accused Bethel man reportedly bragged of connections to local police departments. If that is true, which ones?

The Danbury Police Department began investigating him five years ago, according to the case, and eventually turned it over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Why?

And why did it take five years to build up enough evidence to go to a grand jury? One shudders to think of how many young people potentially were harmed in that long time, if allegations prove true.

The investigation is continuing.

Certainly more information will be unfolding.

But meanwhile, officials owe it to the public to provide answers to serious questions.