FanDuel - WFBC

October 21, 2007

Indians Pitcher Byrd Ordered 1,000 Vials of Human Growth Hormone: From 2002 to 2005, Cleveland Indians starter Paul Byrd dropped $25,000 on human growth hormone and syringes from a Florida anti-aging clinic, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada report in today's San Francisco Chronicle. He made his last order one week before Major League Baseball formally banned the drug on Jan. 13, 2005. An article in Slate from March explains why athletes take HGH, which doesn't have the severe side effects or muscle-mass enhancing traits of steroids.

posted by rcade to baseball at 10:21 AM - 33 comments

I want to make sure i'm understanding this right. Did he quit taking the hormone before it was banned, or just simply stopped ordering it where it could be traced so easily?

posted by brainofdtrain at 11:09 AM on October 21

The rebuttal from Byrd says that it was prescribed by three different doctors, that he was diagnosed as having a tumour on his pituitary gland, the medication was paid for on his credit card, and the HGH was delivered to the Braves' spring-training facility in his name. This does not sound like someone who was hiding something.

posted by grum@work at 11:18 AM on October 21

Isn't it just a little bit hard to believe that a legitimate doctor would be OK with a patient getting shipments of vials and syringes from an illegal anti-aging clinic in Florida? I can't imagine such a prescription. That Byrd did not hide his activities seems more an indicator of his intelligence. He should have asked McGwire how well that excuse worked.

posted by cl at 11:58 AM on October 21

Question #1- Why did Byrd pay for HGH with credit card and was he reimbursed from his health insurance policy? #2- Why have 3 separate doctors prescribe HGH? #3- Did team doctor know about his condition and why didn't he/she issue prescriptions? #4-How long would last shipment last? Would it lapse after the ban? #5-If Byrd needed HGH for proper medical treatment, why didn't he ask for a waiver from MLB?

posted by brickman at 11:59 AM on October 21

Really, who cares? This whole game of gotcha maybe obviously gives a big hard on to the press (the members of which are surely just licking their chops in anticipation of the Mitchell report, which will "name names"), but I just have a hard time believing that this really matters to the average fan, other than those who already are willing to allow ESPN to tell them what they should think about these things. The timing of these stories is also somewhat suspect -- I would have to believe that the media are sitting on a bunch of names that just aren't all that newsworthy. Ankiel goes on a tear, HGH stories surface. Junkballer Paul Byrd has a couple of decent playoff starts that are just what his team needs, and a story is published.

posted by holden at 12:56 PM on October 21

I was thinking the same thing about the timing of these stories holden-- seems like quite a coincidence. That really might be all it is though. Grum, At this point, i have to agree with you. At the time it wasn't banned by the mlb, and he did nothing to try to hide it. I guess unless we can show was using it after the ban, i don't understand why this is such a story,

posted by brainofdtrain at 01:26 PM on October 21

"maybe obviously" should read "obviously"

posted by holden at 01:31 PM on October 21

I dunno holden, I think the game is more appropriately called "gotcha-maybe".

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:43 PM on October 21

If it wasn't banned, then this is probably overblown. BUT... I think the continuing interest in this comes from MLB's extreme reticence to do anything about it. Perhaps the Mitchell report will make a difference. When the steroids scandal first broke I was really surprised to learn they had no testing policy. I'd assume MLB had done something back in the 80s when the NFL and other major sports had to deal with it. And given all the scandals over the years, I can't believe and athlete would even risk it. The smartest thing Byrd could've done is come out and talk about it when the Ankiel story broke rather than waiting for a reporter to track him down. The irony is he just was featured in a nice ESPN.com story in which he dicussed temptation of PEDs in the article. There will always be cheaters, but an adequate testing regime would do a lot for MLB.

posted by drumdance at 01:45 PM on October 21

I think the fair thing for him to do would be to forfeit his win in the ALCS. /sarcasm

posted by jerseygirl at 01:49 PM on October 21

bofdtrain - He bought 6 boxes of HGH one week before MLB banned it. Maybe he decided to go crazy with the needles that week. Is it possible to overdose on this stuff? Or maybe he just bought it for a friend? While I agree with holden that the timing of these stories is incredibly suspect, I am amazed at how many people are so quick to trip over themselves coming to the defense of these guys. How long does this list of outed players have to get for some of you to start believing that, yes, plenty of athletes inject themselves with plenty of banned substances? Not that I really care if Paul Byrd, or anyone else, uses HGH.

posted by cl at 01:51 PM on October 21

If it wasn't banned, then this is probably overblown. BUT... I think the continuing interest in this comes from MLB's extreme reticence to do anything about it. Perhaps the Mitchell report will make a difference. MLB has the strictest testing regiment of the four major North American professional sports leagues and the penalty regime to match. If what's been reported about Mitchell Report is true (that it will name names, that it will be focused largely on the past wrongs rather than on future prescriptives, etc.), I don't think it will do a whole lot more than set of a major media feeding frenzy but do very little for the state of play in the game going forward. Outing a list of past players is a whole lot of window dressing that does nothing to "do anything about [the issue]." Especially when it's not been proven that many of those players did anything against that was against the rules as they were at the time.

posted by holden at 02:43 PM on October 21

So how is it that this comes out now, on a Sunday, just before Game 7 of the ALCS? I'm a Sox fan, but the timing on this seems fishy.

posted by Joey Michaels at 03:09 PM on October 21

So how is it that this comes out now, on a Sunday, just before Game 7 of the ALCS? I'm a Sox fan, but the timing on this seems fishy. It's probably just as much a coincidence as Beckett's ex-girlfriend being chosen by the Indians to be the anthem singer at Game 5 in Cleveland. I am amazed at how many people are so quick to trip over themselves coming to the defense of these guys. How long does this list of outed players have to get for some of you to start believing that, yes, plenty of athletes inject themselves with plenty of banned substances? Well, I'm not exactly "coming to the defence" of someone when I point out facts about the case, am I? "Coming to the defense" of an athlete is making excuses or alibis for them without any information, or making suppositions about the athlete's actions in attempt to clear their name. Most Barry Bonds discussions involve "coming to the defense" of him. In this case, not so much. A tumour on the pituitary gland could easily disrupt the body's ability to produce a proper amount of growth hormones or testosterone. In some cases (like Andre the Giant) it overstimulates the gland. In other cases (like my classmate in high school), he needed hormone injections to regulate his system. If this is a provable medical diagnosis, then I wonder why would anyone get in an uproar about it.

posted by grum@work at 03:28 PM on October 21

So how is it that this comes out now, on a Sunday, just before Game 7 of the ALCS? The reporters who broke this story are the same ones who broke the Bonds/Balco story. Though it's possible they were fed a Byrd tip from someone interested in distracting the Tribe, they're not going to run a story like this without corroboration, which takes time. I think it's more likely they're digging around rumors of juicers in baseball, since that's their area of expertise, and they got the goods on him.

posted by rcade at 03:46 PM on October 21

I don't think the story, timing-wise, is an attempt to sabotage the Indians. I do think it might be the case that the reporters who are breaking these stories are sitting on a bunch of names and choose to pursue the story and out the players based on how much of a splash it will make at the time the story is made public. If this story comes out two weeks later, it is not a story. Byrd is just not enough of a high-profile player for this to be a story outside of the context of the playoffs. Same thing with the Ankiel story -- it was published at the most optimal time for it to survive multiple news cycles, but I don't think it was an attempt to sabotage the (at the time) surging Cardinals.

posted by holden at 04:00 PM on October 21

"The rebuttal from Byrd says that it was prescribed by three different doctors, that he was diagnosed as having a tumour on his pituitary gland, the medication was paid for on his credit card, and the HGH was delivered to the Braves' spring-training facility in his name. This does not sound like someone who was hiding something. posted by grum@work at 11:18 AM CDT on October 21" Maybe it is just me, but I am surprised that a Dentist would write prescriptions for a gland problem. Quote from a new article. "The Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center, the clinic where Byrd made the alleged purchases, is part of a network of anti-aging clinics and online pharmacies targeted by the Albany, N.Y., district attorney for alleged illegal sales of steroids and growth hormone. Citing an anonymous law enforcement source, the Chronicle said two of the prescriptions Byrd used to buy the growth hormone were written by a Florida dentist. The dentist's license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence. Byrd was slowed by an elbow injury in 2003, and records show he made six purchases of HGH."

posted by Cave_Man at 06:03 PM on October 21

Can you link to your source, please? It helps us all to have a peek at the article you're referring to.

posted by jerseygirl at 06:16 PM on October 21

jg - It's in the original SF Chronicle article too.

Two of Byrd's prescriptions for growth hormones were not written by a physician, according to a law enforcement source. Instead, the prescriptions were written by a Florida dentist, said the source, who asked not to be quoted by name because he was not authorized to comment. The dentist's license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence, state records show.

posted by cl at 06:26 PM on October 21

This is the link. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071021/ap_on_sp_ba_ne/bba_alcs_byrd_hgh_12;_ylt=AmNOWYMCpv_HmVnmow6c9jfEHX0V

posted by Cave_Man at 06:52 PM on October 21

Thanks Cave_Man!

posted by jerseygirl at 07:36 PM on October 21

From a Q&A on the Byrd situation by Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus:

Why did this story break and who’s next? The full list of people involved in the Signature scandal has been leaked to at least two sources - the team at the San Francisco Chronicle and the team at Sports Illustrated. In an interview with Jon Wertheim of SI, he indicated that the list was extensive and being entered into a database. The story broke because Byrd’s name is noticeable and the timing was good to sell newspapers. That’s the job of any writer in the employ of a newspaper or magazine, so I’m not faulting anyone. Who’s next is tougher to say. If there’s any Indians, Red Sox, or Rockies on the list, they’d be a good bet.

posted by holden at 10:29 PM on October 21

Would the HG be considered a PED if it was legally prescribed? If Byrd needed to take HGH for a medical reason he would still receive the benefits that it provided, so is this still considered cheating? There is such a slippery slope with this whole PED/cheating fiasco I can;t even inform an opinion on it.

posted by HATER 187 at 10:34 PM on October 21

Thanks holden, answered most of my questions but not all. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Saw his interview before the game. Seemed genuine to me.

posted by brickman at 10:38 PM on October 21

Would the HG be considered a PED if it was legally prescribed? Potentially, yes, if that's how the rules are structured. Prescription asthma medications are prohibited under WADA rules, for instance -- you can compete without 'em, or you can't compete, period. Now, it's MLB and not WADA, but given how reluctant MLB was for years to tackle the complexities of regulating PEDs, and how uber-complicated is the problem of regulating use of a drug that is both medically necessary and performance-enhancing, I really doubt that MLB has even touched the issue of medical exceptions.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 08:13 AM on October 22

Prescription asthma medications are prohibited under WADA rules, for instance -- you can compete without 'em, or you can't compete, period. Now, it's MLB and not WADA, but given how reluctant MLB was for years to tackle the complexities of regulating PEDs, and how uber-complicated is the problem of regulating use of a drug that is both medically necessary and performance-enhancing, I really doubt that MLB has even touched the issue of medical exceptions. MLB has what are called therapeutic use exemptions/waivers, which permit players to take drugs on the banned substances list without penalty. According to this article, MLB has never granted (and did not grant to Paul Byrd) a therapeutic use waiver for HGH, but I believe various players have received therapeutic use waivers for drugs ranging from asthma medication to ADD medication. Contrary to popular belief, MLB has one of the most developed PED policies in all of North American professional sports.

posted by holden at 09:55 AM on October 22

Contrary to popular belief, MLB has one of the most developed PED policies in all of North American professional sports. That's kind of like saying that Uzbekistan has one of the most developed economies in central Asia.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:11 AM on October 22

That's kind of like saying that Uzbekistan has one of the most developed economies in central Asia. No, it's not. Sure, it's not like the over-the-top policies of WADA and other international/olympic organizations, but in no North American team sport will the difference made by a PED be the sole determinant of an outcome, as may be the case in Olympic-type sports where the athletes are so closely bunched that the little edge of a PED can make the difference between podium places. What can/should MLB be doing more than it is? (And let's focus on now, rather than what might have been done in the past.) Intrusive blood testing for HGH, a substance on which there is really not a scientific consensus as to the benefit it imparts (particularly in the baseball context)? You have to look at the benefits of the drugs when considering the invasiveness of testing, and I think MLB has struck a perfectly reasonable position. Perhaps that's because I personally don't think (a position that is not shared by all, certainly not by the media hand-wringers) that the "sanctity of the record book" is sufficient justification for drawing blood. MLB has some of the most rigorous testing and penalties in North American sports, and I would posit that it's beyond what's necessary considering the potential harm to the integrity of the game.

posted by holden at 11:33 AM on October 22

Sure, it's not like the over-the-top policies of WADA and other international/olympic organizations Well, that was kind of my point: having the most well (as in thoroughly) developed rule set of the major North American professional sports doesn't say much. What can/should MLB be doing more than it is? (And let's focus on now, rather than what might have been done in the past.) Intrusive blood testing for HGH, a substance on which there is really not a scientific consensus as to the benefit it imparts (particularly in the baseball context)? You have to look at the benefits of the drugs when considering the invasiveness of testing, and I think MLB has struck a perfectly reasonable position. I would be over the moon about it if MLB, or some other non-WADA-touchable league, were able to inject just that note of sanity into the whole question of PEDs in sports. Unfortunately, there's a little too much hysteria about "cheaters" for that to be likely.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 12:34 PM on October 22

I would be over the moon about it if MLB, or some other non-WADA-touchable league, were able to inject just that note of sanity into the whole question of PEDs in sports. Unfortunately, there's a little too much hysteria about "cheaters" for that to be likely. It sounds like we're largely in agreement. I understood your point about MLB being the tallest midget and all that, but I do think we need to look at PEDs in the context of team sports and what that means, without blindly suggesting that more testing (or WADA-approved testing) is necessary or better -- which I understand is not the point you're making. It seems strange to me that many would advocate importing an olympic-style testing approach that might make sense for individual events into a team sport context where the benefits gained from using PEDs are more likely to show up in an athlete's bank account than in the standings.

posted by holden at 12:45 PM on October 22

I personally don't think that the "sanctity of the record book" is sufficient justification for drawing blood. Cut them with a rusty knife and make them fill a bucket. That'll teach 'em.

posted by SummersEve at 01:08 PM on October 22

Read a good take on Byrd situation on Hogger blog at fox website. Can't figure out how to post however the site is http://community.foxsports.com/blogs/Hogger ---Paul Byrd-medically speaking, your story doesn't add up.

posted by brickman at 03:58 PM on October 22

Even if Byrd had legitimate medical reasons for taking HGH, his circuitous path to get it, and his purchasing habits, are extremely sketchy. According to PTI yesterday, both the Indians organization and MLB are denying any knowledge that Byrd was using HGH. I can't find documentation for that right now, just this statement from MLB.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 06:34 AM on October 23

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