BOSTON – Performance-enhancing drugs rode into baseball's postseason Sunday on the back of a 185-pound pitcher who five days before celebrated the single fastball he threw that broke the 90 m.p.h. barrier.
Paul Byrd, the Cleveland Indians right-hander who received shipments of human growth hormone for more than three years before baseball banned the drug, will be questioned by MLB officials regarding his history of HGH use. Byrd claims he was under a physician's care treating a "pituitary gland issue."
Byrd told Y! Sports in an email earlier Sunday he has a tumor on the pituitary gland that could require further treatment.
He said the tumor was detected recently, but would not confirm that it developed after he began injecting HGH, and declined to say if he was still using HGH.
Before the Indians played the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 of the American League championship series, Byrd, who won Game 4 in Cleveland, stood on a riser outside the Indians' clubhouse at Fenway Park and said, "I have not taken any hormone or any drug that was not prescribed to me by a doctor. And that is the key to this. I have a reputation. I speak to kids and to churches. I do not want the fans of Cleveland and I do not want honest, caring people to think I cheated, because I didn't."
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday that Byrd bought nearly $25,000 worth of HGH and syringes from Aug. 2002 to Jan. 2005 from a Florida-based anti-aging clinic that is the subject of a federal investigation into illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs. The Chronicle said one of Byrd's HGH prescriptions was written by a Florida dentist, whose license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence.
HGH was banned by baseball in 2005, but cannot be detected in urine tests. Baseball does not blood test.
Byrd is alleged to have purchased HGH from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center.
"If that pharmacy did something wrong, I did not know about it," Byrd said. "And I never received anything in a shipment that wasn't prescribed to me."
Byrd had shoulder surgery in 2001 and missed the 2003 season because of Tommy John surgery. In spring training 2002, Byrd was so alarmed by his lack of velocity that, fearing the end of his career, he radically altered his windup.
In the email, Byrd wrote, "My team, 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 recently found out from an MRI that I have a tumor on my pituitary gland. 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."
An MLB official said the league was unaware of Byrd's HGH use.
"I don't know of one instance when anybody has been approved to use HGH," the official said.
Baseball released a statement: "We will investigate the allegations concerning Paul Byrd as we have players implicated in previous similar reports. Since Mr. Byrd and his club, the Cleveland Indians, are currently active in post-season play, we will interview Mr. Byrd prior to the start of the World Series should the Cleveland club advance." Jerry Hairston Jr., Troy Glaus, Rick Ankiel and Jason Giambi have been interviewed by baseball under similar circumstances. Those players were urged to cooperate in the Mitchell Investigation as well. Baseball also had requested a meeting with Gary Matthews Jr.
Byrd was unhappy the story broke hours before Game 7, and met Sunday afternoon with teammates to tell his version of the story.
"We are trying to get to a World Series," he said. "I'm a little disappointed with the timing of this. This story could have been brought out a few days ago. I had nothing to hide, had nothing to hide, had no comment and said, 'Go ahead and run it.'
"I did not try to hide anything. I purchased things with my credit card on my name. Things came to clubhouses of teams I played on and I've taken blood tests set up by teams in towns. Everything has been done out in the open. I have shipments come to clubhouses and, actually, for a short period of time, stored them in a refrigerator. So, I feel like that makes things very legitimate.
"I don't want to show up at a stadium and kids not want my autograph and people think I cheated. I love this game. I respect this game. I loved it since I was a little boy and I've always wanted to be in the World Series and I'm one game away from it. Now I'm dealing with my medical history on a night when I should be talking about Jake Westbrook and the Cleveland Indians."