The kingpin of a sinister, violent and highly organised country Victorian drug syndicate was a champion young cyclist who vied to become professional, but instead spiralled into drug use and trafficking, the Melbourne County Court heard on Wednesday.
At 18, Aaron Shane Dalton, now 32, was a road cyclist with the Victorian Institute of Sport and was trained in Wangaratta by 1984 Olympic gold medallist Dean Woods.
His syndicate prided itself on its "professionalism". Strict instructions were given in typed documents to syndicate members and dealers connected to it.
The document instructed the syndicate was in the "business of making money, not power-tripping or disrespecting customers" and any complaints would be investigated.
"This is how serious we are about the professionalism of our services which you require," the instructions stated.
Customers were also given codewords to use on phones when placing orders; "catch up for a coffee" translated into .1 of a gram of ice and "catch up for a bourbon" meant one gram.
Defence barrister Leonard Hartnett said it was soon after Dalton failed in his bid to get into the Australian Institute of Sport that he stopped cycling and started taking drugs.
The use escalated into trafficking and he was convicted of it both in 2006 and 2009, before he formed a syndicate in 2011 that trafficked across the north-east and southern NSW for a year.
It was a syndicate, Judge Michael Bourke said in a previous plea hearing, that used tactics of fear to intimidate those inside and outside its web, including innocent families of members.
Two homes were firebombed, one while children slept, a car was set alight and another run off a road into a tree. A young butcher was shot in his home and there were numerous assaults.
Dalton's father, Wangaratta abattoir manager Shane Dalton, told the court on Wednesday he knew his eldest son had slipped even further when his partner and young daughter left him in mid-2012.
He said his son's arrest in Shepparton in September 2012,when police found ice in the car he was pulled over in, was a "relief".
"We didn't know what was going to happen. At least if he was in jail, we knew he was going to be safe," he said.
He said he watched his son transform during his two years in Port Phillip Prison from constantly talking of "getting people back" to telling his father how bad ice was and what it was doing to people.
Mr Hartnett said Dalton had enrolled in a behavioral science degree and was achieving distinctions for essays that displayed an "intelligent mind" of someone who is able to understand "serious problems in the community".
Dalton pleaded guilty trafficking a commercial quantity of ice and MDMA, recklessly causing serious injury, reckless conduct endangering a person, affray, false imprisonment and arson.
His brother Joshua Dalton, 27, also appeared in court on Wednesday having pleaded guilty to trafficking a commercial quantity of ice, using a drug of dependence and dealing with the proceeds of crime.
Prosecutor Max Perry told the court on Wednesday Joshua Dalton, who gave a statement to police against his brother, started selling ice through the syndicate to make "easy money".
Judge Bourke, who will sentence the brothers and three others at a date to be fixed, commended the police who investigated the syndicate.
"It's not often that the major person in a case is brought before the courts," he said.
"Our system rarely gets close to them. It's not often in a drug operation like this, it's brought to justice."
Four other syndicate members were sentenced in October and November last year.