Indians' Byrd says he took HGH under 'doctor's care and supervision'

Updated: October 22, 2007, 11:17 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Paul Byrd, whose victory in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series put the Cleveland Indians on the doorstep of the World Series, has acknowledged taking human growth hormone under a doctor's care.

The 36-year-old right-hander said he took the drug for a medical condition but claimed he never injected it without a doctor's prescription. In an interview with foxsports.com, in spring training Byrd said the medical condition was a tumor on his pituitary gland.

"I have not taken any hormone apart from a doctor's care and supervision," Byrd said. "The Indians, my coaches and MLB have known that I have had a pituitary gland issue for some time and have assisted me in getting blood tests in different states. I am currently working with an endocrinologist and will have another MRI on my head after the season to make sure that the tumor hasn't grown.

"I have nothing to hide," he later said, two hours before Game 7 in Boston, where the Red Sox's 11-2 ALCS-clinching win capped their rally from a 3-1 series deficit. "Everything has been done out in the open. I have a reputation. I speak to kids, I speak to churches. I do not want the fans of Cleveland or honest, caring people to think that I cheated. Because I didn't."

A report Sunday in The San Francisco Chronicle said Byrd bought nearly $25,000 worth of human growth hormone and syringes between 2002 and 2005. Byrd said he no longer is taking HGH.

Major League Baseball formally banned HGH on Jan. 13, 2005, but does not test for the substance.

MLB senior vice president for business and labor Rob Manfred told the New York Daily News in a story for Monday that Byrd hadn't received a theraputic use exemption (TUE) to use HGH. The TUE is a special waiver allowing players to take a banned drug for a legitimate medical reason.

"If he's saying that to create the impression that he was authorized or had permission, we have never granted a [therapeutic use exemption] for human growth hormone, ever," said Manfred, according to the Daily News. "Not for this guy, not for anybody."

Byrd questioned the timing of the release of the report when speaking to ESPN The Magazine's Sam Alipour earlier Sunday.

Excerpt from
"The Free Byrd Project"

"At the insistence of a close friend, I went and had my hormones checked, which I thought was something only a menopausal woman did. After all, I didn't need to take off my sweater or turn down the air conditioner when no one was looking.

"To my surprise, the doctor told me that I was producing very little growth hormone and prescribed a dosage to help me out. I didn't like sticking a needle in my inner thigh each night but I sure did enjoy the sleep that occurred afterwards.

"My life changed during that time and I was able to work out more, experience less fatigue and recover quicker from pitching. Like the other temptations that I've mentioned in this book, I had a new one to deal with one night when I stuck that needle in the hormone filled bottle.

"I wondered if I doubled my prescribed dose, whether or not I would throw harder and have a better and possibly longer career. After all, I had a prescription. Some strange silent voices ran across my brain and had conversations with me as I pulled back the syringe. I remember having thoughts that doing better on the field could mean more money for my family, my charities and even supporting Churches.

"Then I prayed and realized that God was in control of my life and He wouldn't want me making money through cheating the system. I told those stupid voices that masquerade as smart ones to shut up! I am not unaware of the Evil One's schemes."

--Paul Byrd

"The tragedy in all of this is the timing," Byrd said. "We have Game 7 on the line … I don't want any of this to affect my teammates. I don't want this to affect [Indians manager] Eric Wedge's decision to bring me in the game. That's what the shame is. [The San Francisco Chronicle reporter] had the story three days ago. I told him I have no comment, print your story. He waited until Game 7. That doesn't sit well with me, the timing of the story. If something happens to [Game 7 starting pitcher] Jake [Westbrook] in [the first] inning… I'm the logical pick [to pitch in relief]. I've had 4 days rest. This whole thing is bad."

Byrd spoke to his teammates before Sunday's game.

"They understand the situation and we respect each other," Byrd said. "These guys have worked way too hard to let something like this distract them at the last minute."

However, the allegations against Byrd created a circus-like atmosphere in the narrow passageways inside Fenway Park as Indians players had to step around reporters and camera crews on their way to the batting cages.

Byrd is the latest major leaguer accused of buying HGH, joining Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel and Texas Rangers infielder Jerry Hairston Jr.

The newspaper's report said that Byrd's purchase was from the Florida anti-aging clinic that was the focus of law enforcement for illegally distributing performance-enhancing drugs, according to business records.

The Chronicle reported that the purchases were made via credit card from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center between August 2002 and January 2005. In that time frame, Byrd pitched for the Kansas City Royals, the Atlanta Braves and the Angels.

Based on the paper's review, Byrd had some shipments sent to his home in Alpharetta, Ga.; $1,050 worth of syringes and HGH to the Braves' spring training facility in Kissimmee, Fla.; and a $2,000 order to the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York when the Braves were in town to play the Mets.

Byrd claims Major League Baseball officials have known that he's been taking the drug, which he said he has stored in clubhouse refrigerators. Byrd promised to address his situation in more detail once Game 7 is completed.

MLB officials said they want to speak further with Byrd.

"We will investigate the allegations concerning Paul Byrd as we have players implicated in previous similar reports," the league said in a statement.

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.

Byrd told ESPN that he saw a doctor in Marietta, Ga., for a couple of months about his condition. The doctor then referred him to another doctor in Florida.

When Byrd asked whether he needed to fly down to Florida to see the new doctor, he was told by the Georgia doctor that it wasn't necessary. They told him to keep getting his prescriptions filled and keep getting his blood tested. He also was told to speak to the doctors by phone every three months to go over his test results.

Byrd says he never saw the doctor in Florida. It is that doctor in Florida, Byrd says, who apparently didn't do everything by the book.

"When you walk into a doctor's office, you don't say, 'Let me see your credentials,'" Byrd told ESPN. "You see people in the waiting room, you see a guy in a white coat, you see nurses. If you go to a throat doctor, you don't say, 'Let me see some credentials and make some calls.'"

Byrd, who said he does not remember any of the doctors' names, believes he did nothing wrong.

"I'm not denying that I took HGH. Again, that's not my issue. I'm just saying, as far I know, I had a medical need for it."

Byrd did say he thought about taking more than the prescribed amount of HGH with the thought that it could help improve his performance on the field.

"I had the temptation to take more than what was medically prescribed," Byrd said. "I'm thinking, I can get my fastball up in the 90s and see what I can do then. But I never did take above what was subscribed. And I never took anything above what was prescribed to me by a doctor for a medical condition."

Byrd is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA this postseason as a starter for Cleveland.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, who has known Byrd for 14 years, said he was not made aware of Byrd's condition or his use of HGH until Friday.

Questions, Few Answers

Paul Byrd's discussion of his HGH use created more questions than it answered, Jim Caple writes. Story
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In a statement released before game-time, Shapiro said the team is supporting its pitcher, who earned the victory in Cleveland's AL Division Series-clinching win over the Yankees on Oct. 8.

"We [are] aware of the story regarding Paul," Shapiro said. "I have spoken with Paul about the situation, however, at this time I don't feel I have enough information to make any further comments on the matter. He has been an important member of this organization -- on and off the field -- over the last two years and we support him in this process."

The Chronicle said Byrd spent $24,850 to buy more than 1,000 vials of growth hormone as well as hundreds of syringes. The records reviewed by the paper included such items as purchase and shipping orders, and identifying information such as Byrd's birth date and his Social Security number. The source that provided the records said the orders placed were consistent with personal use of HGH.

In a recent interview with Alipour, Byrd talked about his manuscript called "The Free Byrd Project" that details the influence of religion in his life and how it helped discourage him from cheating.

"Religion can go over into every area, like whether I should cheat out on the field," Byrd told Alipour last week. "I write about the desire to just make money at any cost. I share about my temptation to spit on the ball, put K-Y jelly on it or scuff it, to win more games and make more money. That's a big temptation for me, being a guy who throws 82, who relies on movement.

"You have a pull, because you have a certain window up here that stares you in the face. Are you willing to take steroids? Because that's available. People viewed that as me being weak. Like, 'This guy doesn't want to win.' "

The manuscript talks about his spiritual journey through the major leagues and the pitfalls pious jocks must leap in navigating a ballplayer's lifestyle.

"I don't call people out like [Jose] Canseco," Byrd said. "I share my struggles. I think the last thing the Christian community needs is another person who says they have it all together, a 12-step process for being perfect. That doesn't exist. I can help people by being honest."

Byrd said Sunday that he fears a backlash from the story.

"I just want kids to know that I didn't cheat… When I go speak at a youth group, or a church, people will be like, 'Isn't this the guy who took growth hormones?' That's one of my fears."

After shoulder surgery in 2002, Byrd began toying with a double-pump windup favored by pitchers from decades ago. He found that the arm-swinging motion helped him hide the ball from hitters better, and the windup became his signature.

In a 13-year career in which he has played for seven teams, Byrd is 97-81 with a 4.35 ERA. This season, he started 31 games and had a 15-8 record with a 4.59 ERA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.