Former Angels and Mets pitcher Matt Harvey took the witness stand on Tuesday in the federal trial of Eric Kay and chronicled an extensive drug culture within baseball. Kay, the former Los Angeles Angels communications director, is accused of distributing fentanyl to the late Tyler Skaggs, an Angels pitcher who died in 2019 with fentanyl, oxycodone and alcohol in his system. Kay’s attorneys insist there is reasonable doubt as to whether Kay provided the drugs that contributed to Skaggs’ death.
Harvey, 32, and Skaggs were Angels teammates in 2019. Harvey is a relevant witness since he and Skaggs used drugs together. The government granted Harvey immunity, meaning he cannot face criminal charges for admitting to using and distributing illegal narcotics. The immunity also prevents Harvey from effectively pleading the Fifth Amendment in response to questions about topics covered by the immunity deal.
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Harvey admitted to using cocaine for years and spoke of MLB players readily obtaining, and using, drugs to play through injuries. He also described sharing Percocet with Skaggs, whom Harvey said provided him with oxycodone. Harvey’s testimony included numerous details about his drug use and time with Skaggs.
During cross examination, Harvey suggested he didn’t lie about using cocaine while he played for the Mets—he pitched for them between 2012 and 2018—since “no one really asked” about that topic.
Kay’s defense attorney Michael Molfetta was mainly interested in Harvey acknowledging that there were multiple suppliers of drugs. A higher number could lead jurors to feel reasonable doubt as to who supplied Skaggs the drugs that contributed to his death. Harvey, to that point, described several dealers. He also acknowledged not witnessing, or only once seeing, Kay hand drugs to Skaggs.
Harvey’s testimony is relevant to the case for different reasons than it is relevant to the sport.
For the case, Harvey’s testimony sheds light on how, and from whom, Skaggs obtained drugs. For baseball, the testimony presents a troubling account on drug testing programs developed by the league and the players’ association. There is no public record of Harvey facing drug-related MLB discipline during the period where he admits to using drugs. Harvey’s depiction of players routinely using drugs to cope with pain and injuries from a 162-game season—and the apparent ease of players obtaining those drugs—also raise questions about how teams manage the toll on players’ bodies.
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