Report: Cardinals' Ankiel received HGH supply in 2004

Updated: September 7, 2007, 8:17 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel, who punctuated a storybook comeback from pitching travails by homering twice with 7 RBIs Thursday, joined the list of athletes linked to a Florida-based steroids investigation.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation, citing records its reporters saw. That Orlando outfit, Signature Pharmacy, has been implicated in a steroids investigation run by Albany County (N.Y.) District Attorney P. David Soares, which has resulted in 22 indictments and several Florida clinic raids.

Hours after the report was made public, Sports Illustrated reported on its Web site that steroids were shipped to the address of Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus in 2003 and 2004.

Major League Baseball asked Friday to meet with Ankiel and Glaus.

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"We're going to look into both sets of allegations,'' said Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations.

Manfred would not go into details, but MLB already had requested meetings with the two players, a person familiar with the request said, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement was made.

Michael Weiner, the general counsel of the players' union, declined comment.

"Rick Ankiel has stated he's not violated any baseball rules. He has not violated any federal or state laws,'' said his agent, Scott Boras. "He only has followed the course of treatment prescribed by his medical doctors during the course of his career."

Ankiel's HGH prescriptions, including Saizen and Genotropin, were signed by Florida physician William Gogan, who provided them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called The Health and Rejuvenation Center, or THARC, the Daily News reported.

The drugs were shipped to the 28-year-old Ankiel at the clinic's address, the paper said. The pitcher-turned-outfielder lives close by in Jupiter.

THARC also dispatched a shipment of steroids and HGH to former major-league pitcher Steve Woodard , according to The Daily News. Woodard, who pitched for four teams in a four-year career that ended in 2003, and Ankiel were teammates with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2004.

Woodard didn't return cell phone messages, The News said.

FAQ on HGH

What is human growth hormone?
• Growth hormone is a powerful anabolic hormone that occurs naturally in the human body. It is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and stimulates the growth of muscle, cartilage and bone.
• A body produces growth hormone throughout its entire life, but produces more of it during youth.
• HGH was initially isolated in 1956. By 1959, it was starting to be used on children suffering from stunted growth.
• Originally, prior to genetic engineering, the only source of HGH was human corpses. The pituitary glands were removed from cadavers, processed and the hormones made available in injectable form. However, synthetic HGH can now be made in unlimited quantities in the laboratory. The International Olympic Committee's medical commission banned HGH in 1989.

Why would an athlete take HGH?
• To increase muscle size. Because there is a correlation between muscle size and strength, competitors in events that require power and short bursts of explosive strength would be most likely to benefit. It also allows tired muscles to recover faster -- allowing you to train harder and more often.

Are there any side effects?
• If a body has too much HGH, a condition can result called acromegaly, a disease where the hands become spade-like in appearance as they get bigger. Growth of the facial bones causes the face to change shape too.
• Organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys also undergo excessive growth, leading to potentially life-threatening problems.
• Accelerated cell growth also increases the risk for cancers.

SOURCE: ESPN Research Department and BBC.co.uk

Ankiel has not been accused by authorities of wrongdoing, and stopped receiving HGH just before Major League Baseball officially banned it in 2005, The News reported.

MLB does not test for HGH, but a player who is known to have used it or even possessed it from the time it was banned can face a 50-game suspension.

Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty said: "This is the first I've heard of this. If it's true, obviously it would be very tragic, along with everything else we've had happen to us this year."

MLB officials also declined comment, saying they would "look into" the allegations, but weren't sure whether any action could be taken.

Also linked to the Signature Pharmacy probe, in various reports, are at least 14 professional wrestlers, New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison (who was suspended four games by the NFL) and Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Wilson (suspended five games).

Daily News sources said more athletes' names are expected to emerge from THARC.

On Thursday, Ankiel homered twice and had a career-high seven RBIs, leading the Cardinals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 16-4 in a rain-shortened game.

Brought up Aug. 9 in his first major league appearance since he pitched for the Cardinals in 2004, Ankiel is batting .358 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 23 games. He also homered twice against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 11.

He hit 32 home runs in Triple-A this season before the Cardinals summoned him. St. Louis (69-68) is 17-9 since, closing within one game of NL Central co-leaders Chicago and Milwaukee.

The hard-throwing lefty won 11 games and struck out 194 in 175 innings as a 20-year-old rookie pitcher in 2000 and was a surprise pick to start the Cardinals' postseason opener that season against Atlanta. But he became the first major-league pitcher to throw five wild pitches in one inning since 1890.

Ankiel threw nine wild pitches in four innings during the 2000 playoffs and was never really the same after that. He showed some promise at the plate in 2000, batting .250 with two home runs.

Signature is at the center of an investigation by the Albany district attorney's office. Authorities there have been looking into an Internet ring involving performance-enhancing drugs and allegedly involving athletes from several sports.

The third NFL person involved in the investigation was Dr. Richard Ryzde, one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' team doctors. He had earlier been fired by the team.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.