Indians' Byrd Admits HGH Use
Monday, October 22, 2007
BOSTON, Oct. 21 -- A little more than two hours before the first pitch of Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, a game in which he was preparing to pitch in relief, Cleveland Indians veteran right-hander Paul Byrd stood in a dingy walkway in the bowels of Fenway Park and in composed, measured tones denied being a cheater.
As teammates began their on-field preparations for the franchise's biggest game in a decade, Byrd defended his past use of human growth hormone (HGH) to treat a tumor in his pituitary gland, and decried the timing of the San Francisco Chronicle report Sunday morning that brought the drug use to light.
"I have never taken any hormone or any drug that was not prescribed to me by a doctor," Byrd said. "I do not want honest, caring people to think that I cheated, because I did not. . . . I'm a little disappointed in the timing right now. I don't want this to affect my team when we take the field and play tonight."
Major League Baseball issued a tersely worded statement saying league representatives would interview Byrd before the World Series, if the Indians were to advance, and a league spokesman said it was possible Byrd could be suspended for the World Series if it is determined he used the drugs illegally during years when they were banned in baseball.
According to the Chronicle report, Byrd purchased nearly $25,000 worth of HGH and syringes from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center -- an anti-aging clinic that recently was investigated for illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs -- between 2002 and 2005, when he played for the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels. Baseball formally banned HGH in January 2005, although it does not test for the drug.
Byrd, 36, told Foxsports.com on Sunday that three different doctors diagnosed growth-hormone deficiency, and that this spring a tumor on his pituitary gland was detected, and it may have contributed to the condition. He did not say whether he still is using HGH.
"I have a pituitary tumor," he said. "I'm still learning about that, and it's something I will have to have tested."
Byrd, who said he is a devout Christian, said he was tempted to increase the dosage prescribed for his condition, in an attempt to increase his athletic production, but that he ultimately decided against it.
"I have had temptations to cheat," he said. "I was prescribed a hormone and I did inject it and I did have the temptation to make more of it than was prescribed, so that my fastball would reach into the 90s on a consistent basis. I never succumbed to those temptations."
HGH is produced naturally by the pituitary gland to stimulate growth and development. Under FDA guidelines, the treatment of pituitary tumors is an approved medical use of HGH, along with growth deficiencies in children and wasting associated with diseases such as AIDS.
However, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the league "has never granted a therapeutic use exemption for human growth hormone."
Byrd also said both the Indians and MLB knew about his medical condition and its treatment, another point disputed by Courtney. "We didn't know about the HGH until we read about it [Sunday] morning," Courtney said.
Mark Shapiro, the Indians' general manager, said he was made aware of the allegations regarding Byrd on Friday, when Byrd himself informed him of the Chronicle's pending story.
According to the Chronicle report, two of the prescriptions Byrd used to obtain the HGH were written by a Florida dentist whose license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence.
Byrd arrived at Fenway Park some four hours before the 8:23 p.m. first pitch, and addressed his teammates in the visitors' clubhouse before speaking to reporters.
Byrd becomes the latest in a string of major leaguers whose names have trickled out during the law enforcement investigation into performance-enhancing drugs, joining Jay Gibbons of the Baltimore Orioles, Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals, Gary Matthews Jr. of the Angels and Jerry Hairston Jr. of the Texas Rangers.