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Published: Monday, 10/22/2007

Indians pitcher says HGH prescribed by doctor for tumor

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Paul Byrd addresses the media before last night's American League championship series Game 7 at Fenway Park. Paul Byrd addresses the media before last night's American League championship series Game 7 at Fenway Park.
CHARLES KRUPA / AP Enlarge

BOSTON - Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd said yesterday that he has "never taken any hormone or substance that was not prescribed to me by a doctor, and have never taken more than I was prescribed," and that he fears being labeled a cheater.

Byrd addressed the media last night before Game 7 of the American League championship series at Fenway Park and divulged that he is dealing with a pituitary gland ailment that he referred to as a tumor.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in yesterday morning's editions that Byrd had spent about $25,000 on some 1,000 vials of human growth hormone (HGH) and syringes between August, 2002, and January, 2005. Byrd was pitching for the Kansas City Royals, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels during that time frame.

Byrd, who is completing his second season with the Indians, won 15 games during the regular season and was the winning pitcher in both of his postseason starts.

Reportedly, Byrd purchased HGH from the pharmacy of a Florida anti-aging clinic that has been the focus of law enforcement personnel during a probe into the trade of performance-enhancing drugs.

"The purchases were made on my credit card, in my name," Byrd said, insisting he didn't hide anything. "I had purchases delivered to clubhouses and stored in refrigerators in different [cities]. My intentions were legitimate."

He would not discuss any dates other than to say the pituitary illness was discovered "in the recent past."

When asked if he is still taking HGH, he said it is "a private matter."

The Chronicle report indicated Byrd's first purchase of HGH came about five years ago. Byrd suffered an elbow injury in 2003, underwent shoulder surgery later that same year, and missed some of the '04 season while recovering.

Major League Baseball (MLB) officially banned HGH in January, 2005, but does not test for the substance.

"I do not want the fans of Cleveland, who are honest, caring people, to think I cheated," Byrd said. "I did not. I say that with complete confidence. No matter what I say, I know there are people who won't accept it. I hate the thought that I could come to a stadium and have people think I cheated.

"I have too much respect for the game. I love this game and, right now, I'm one game from the World Series, which is my dream. I'm a little disappointed in how this came out, the timing and everything."

A Chronicle reporter covering this series said the newspaper contacted Byrd on Friday about the story and that he declined comment.

He did, however, disclose the situation that night to Indians general manager Mark Shapiro.

"Paul and I talked late Friday night; that was the first I was aware of it," Shapiro said. "I was surprised, but I'm supportive while accepting the fact that I don't know everything. I've known Paul on and off for 14 years and he has always been a stellar person on and off the field."

Shapiro said he could not comment on when the pituitary ailment developed because it is "a private, personal medical issue. I can't tell you any more than what Paul elected to tell you."

Shapiro also refused to comment on any discipline Byrd might face, saying that "a lot of parties like MLB, Paul, his representative, the [players'] union and others will be involved. I haven't officially spoken to anyone from MLB about it."

MLB released a statement saying it would discuss the situation with Byrd after the season or, perhaps, before the start of the World Series if the Indians are involved.

Byrd said he had discussed the Chronicle report and his health situation with his teammates yesterday in what Shapiro said was a "closed-door, players-only meeting" that did not include manager Eric Wedge or any club officials.

Wedge said before the game that Byrd would be in the bullpen and available for relief duty last night.

"I know the players talked," Wedge said. "Our guys have worked real hard all year to stay in the right mind-set and I expect the same thing tonight. I don't think there's any greater challenge than a Game 7. So I'm not going to say anymore. Our focus, every aspect of time, energy and effort, has to go into this game."

Added Byrd: "[The Indians] have worked way too hard to let something like this distract them. I'm disappointed in the timing. My medical situation should not be the focus today. As of right now, I'm clearing my head of this. I'll be in the pen and I could get in the game. We're all trying to get to the World

Series."

Byrd said he would make himself available in the near future to answer more questions.



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