BOSTON – Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd acknowledged using human growth hormone for a medical condition, but claims he never injected the banned drug without a doctor’s prescription.
“I have nothing to hide,” Byrd said Sunday about two hours before Game 7 of the A.L. championship series against the Boston Red Sox. “Everything has been done out in the open.”
Byrd, whose win in Game 4 of the ALCS moved the Indians within one victory of the World Series, bought nearly $25,000 worth of HGH and syringes from 2002-05, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday.
Byrd, known for his old-school windup and savvy on the mound, purchased HGH from a Palm Beach, Fla., anti-aging clinic under investigation by authorities for possible illegal distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, the paper said.
The Chronicle, citing an anonymous law enforcement source, said two of Byrd’s prescriptions for HGH were not written by a physician.
Standing in front of a media throng outside the Indians’ clubhouse, Byrd said he has a pituitary gland condition that required him to take HGH.
Pressed on when he was diagnosed and the nature of his condition, Byrd declined several times to give any details. HGH is now banned by Major League Baseball and the International Olympic Committee.
“I have never taken any hormones or any drugs not prescribed to me,” Byrd said.
Byrd was available to pitch out of the bullpen in Game 7, and was hoping his situation would not be a distraction for the Indians, who led the best-of-seven series 3-1 before losing the past two games.
Byrd spoke to his teammates before the 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, it 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.
After Byrd spoke for about 10 minutes, general manager Mark Shapiro addressed the media.
Shapiro, who has known Byrd for 14 years, said he was not made aware of the pitcher’s condition or the 36-year-old’s use of HGH until Friday.
Byrd claims 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.
“I do have a pituitary issue,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what that means yet.”
Byrd said doctors prescribed HGH after he had “very low” hormone readings.
The 12-year veteran said he had been tempted to abuse the performance-enhancing drug but resisted.
“I have had temptations to cheat,” said Byrd, a devout Christian. “I have been asked by pitching coaches, ‘Here’s how you scuff a ball. Here’s how you put saliva on a ball.’ I was prescribed a hormone and I did inject it.
“I have had the temptation to take more of it than what was prescribed, so my fastball would reach into the 90s (mph) on a consistent basis. I never succumbed to any of those temptations. I never took any more than what was prescribed. I was trying to think of a way to prove that to people. I don’t know that there is.”
During the time of the alleged purchases from 2002-05, Byrd was with Kansas City, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Angels. HGH was not banned by baseball then and was added to the sport’s list of prohibited substances in 2005.
Byrd maintains he’s been working with Major League Baseball.
Officials, however, said they want to speak with him before the start of the World Series, if Cleveland advances.
“We will investigate the allegations concerning Paul Byrd as we have players implicated in previous similar reports,” the league statement said.