Commentary

Byrd offers very few answers on his use of HGH

Originally Published: October 21, 2007
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

BOSTON -- Hmmmm. Perhaps there is more than just the old-fashioned windup to Paul Byrd's comeback from the career precipice. The Cleveland pitcher left more questions about his use of human growth hormone unanswered than answered when he spoke to a throng of at least 70 reporters in a crowded Fenway Park concourse before Game 7 on Sunday.

Byrd said that his team, coaches and Major League Baseball knew about his pituitary condition and that everything he has done with HGH has been out in the open, but Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro said he had no knowledge of "any of this" until the pitcher told him about it Friday. Shapiro declined to comment specifically on whether the club knew about a pituitary problem with Byrd, citing medical confidentiality, but said, "Friday was the first time I was aware of anything."

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney also said the league had no prior knowledge of any HGH use by the pitcher. Courtney further said that Byrd was not given a therapeutic use exemption for HGH, that no player has been given such an exemption and that he was not aware whether an HGH exemption was even possible.

Paul Byrd
Jamie Mullen/US PresswireFor at least the time being, Paul Byrd will be looked at with a skeptical eye.
Asked to respond to the officials' comments after the game, Byrd declined.

According to a story in The San Francisco Chronicle, the HGH shipments stopped just before baseball's ban on HGH went into effect in 2005. Byrd said he has developed a pituitary tumor "in the recent past" but declined to tell the crowd of reporters whether he has stopped taking HGH for the condition. "That's a private matter right now with me."

"I have never taken anything apart from a prescription," Byrd said. "And another thing that's important is that I did not try to hide anything. I purchased things with my credit card in my name; things came to the clubhouses of teams that I played on. I've taken blood tests set up by a team in different towns. Everything has been done out in the open.

"I have actually had shipments come to clubhouses and have actually for a small period of time stored them in the refrigerator in the clubhouse, so I feel that makes things very legitimate on my intentions."

Baseball must be delighted to hear that Byrd was shipping HGH to clubhouses and sometimes storing it there, but just because he did so does not mean the club would have any idea what the package contained, much less approve it.

"I'm very happy that I've been working with Major League Baseball," Byrd also said. "I think that's another thing that shows that I haven't tried to do anything behind anybody's back."

Saying that you're "working with Major League Baseball" implies that the league knows about everything and gave approval for Byrd to take anything he wants. But that's not the case. Byrd may or may not have informed the league about his pituitary problem (again, medical cases are confidential), but Courtney stressed that the league didn't know anything about HGH and Byrd.

I have actually had [HGH] shipments come to clubhouses and have actually for a small period of time stored them in the refrigerator in the clubhouse, so I feel that makes things very legitimate on my intentions.

--Paul Byrd

If Byrd had a legitimate medical reason to use HGH, why did he not tell that to reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams when they contacted him? Instead, he said only no comment.

Byrd made it clear that he had prescriptions for HGH, but according to the Chronicle story, two of the prescriptions were from a dentist. If you have a pituitary problem or a tumor, would you really get the prescription for treatment from a dentist? And if you needed treatment and were a pitcher with access to the major league medical plan, would you have the prescription filled online?

The timing of these leaks is also curious. The Rick Ankiel story broke the day after the player made headlines by driving in seven runs. The report on Scott Schoeneweis broke just as the Mets' season ended. And now comes the Byrd story when he was on the national stage for the first time.

"It's interesting timing," Courtney said, "but we have no way of knowing the circumstances on which they get the information and release the information."

In that sense, it's fortunate for baseball that Cleveland isn't going to the World Series. Had it, this story would have dragged on for the next week to 10 days, growing bigger and more scrutinized with every game. Instead, it will fade away into winter along with Cleveland's season.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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