The investigation led to 349 people being arrested or reported ©Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has thanked its law enforcement partners in the European Union (EU), after they successfully seized more than €40 million (£35.3 million/$42.5 million) worth of counterfeit medicine and doping substances.

A total of 59 criminal groups and 349 suspects were either arrested or reported to judicial authorities.

Known as Operation Shield, this was coordinated by Europol and was led by investigators in France, Greece, Italy and Spain, as well as police and customs authorities in 28 nations.

Nineteen EU member states and nine third-party countries were part of the process.

Medicines for erectile dysfunction were among the most seized items.

Over one million fake COVID-19 tests were found too.

It led to 10 underground laboratories being shut down and 89 websites being closed too.

WADA was involved in the initial stage from April to October 2022.

Europol were part of the investigation with WADA ©Getty Images
Europol were part of the investigation with WADA ©Getty Images

The intelligence also led to 48 positive tests being flagged.

"This is a significant result and a victory for law enforcement as well as for clean sport," said WADA director of intelligence and investigations Gunter Younger. 

"Substances prohibited in sport were among the most seized items in this operation and, apart from the arrest of hundreds of people suspected of being involved, it also resulted in a number of targeted testing campaigns being launched by several anti-doping organisations. 

"As a result, 48 positive tests came about thanks to intelligence provided by this investigation.

"We congratulate Europol, all member states and other organisations that contributed to this successful operation. 

"This is another example of the sort of multi-party collaboration that produces real results and can make a significant impact on the availability of prohibited substances used by some athletes globally."

It vindicates the Memorandum of Understanding between WADA and Europol signed in February 2021 regarding sports doping, similar to one signed in 2009 with Interpol.

There were 3,526 anti-doping controls in-competition conducted in relation to Operation Shield, with another 3,245 out-of-competition.

Of the 218,000 shipments checked, over 74,000 were seized.