MLB Investigating Claim That L.A. Outfielder Was Sent Growth Hormone

The prosecutor at the center of the latest steroid investigation says he's only interested in the folks doling out the drugs, not those using them.

Major League Baseball might be a different story.

Baseball officials said Thursday they want more information on allegations that Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was sent human growth hormone from a pharmacy that's part of a widespread steroid investigation.

"We're looking into it," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "I know our people are going to contact the Albany district attorney."

Eight people in three states have already been arrested in the Albany County prosecutor's investigation into a distribution network that may be responsible for sales of performance-enhancing drugs nationwide.

At least two people are charged with multiple counts of criminal sale, attempted criminal sale and conspiracy to sell controlled substances for trying to get doctors to write prescriptions for patients they didn't see. The other indictments remain sealed until defendants appear in Albany County Court.

Four more people are expected to surrender in Albany on Monday, district attorney P. David Soares said Thursday. As many as 24 could face felony charges by the time the investigation is over.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that two bodybuilders received drugs. Citing unidentified sources, the newspaper reported that eight-time Mr. Universe Ronnie Coleman and Victor Hernandez, were among the many clients of the Internet pharmacy operation. The Daily News said neither man is a target of the investigations.

In Orlando, Fla., where raids took place earlier this week, four defendants waived extradition. However, their attorneys requested they be released on bond, fitted with global tracking monitors and allowed to turn themselves in to New York authorities.

Orange County Judge Mike Murphy denied the bond request, but said if New York authorities did not pick up the defendants by March 8, he would reconsider bond.

"My interest is in shutting down the faucet, and not just putting cups under the faucet catching drips," Soares said after returning from Orlando, where federal and state agents raided two pharmacies on Tuesday.

"My emphasis here was in shutting down a major pipeline."

Soares refused Thursday to discuss the investigation of Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala. The two owners have already been indicted by an Albany County grand jury, according to the Times Union of Albany, which first disclosed the investigation.

The Times Union also said Matthews, former baseball star Jose Canseco and former heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield were on Applied Pharmacy's customer list. And reported that Matthews was sent Genotropin, a brand of synthetic growth hormone, in August 2004.

The drug, which came from Applied Pharmacy, was sent to the address in Mansfield, Texas, of one of Matthews' former minor league teammates, according to the Internet site.

Matthews has declined to answer specific questions about the allegations.

"When I get more information from my people, I can say more," he said at the Angels' spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz.

Human growth hormone wasn't included in Major League Baseball's list of banned substances until after the 2004 season. But the collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time said players could be penalized for criminal convictions for the use, sale or distribution of prohibited substances.

HGH is a rarely prescribed drug whose legal uses have to be specifically approved by the Health and Human Services secretary. But it's become popular on the black market with people looking to gain strength or reverse the aging process.

"There are some unfortunate allegations that are floating around, but we don't know exactly what we're dealing with," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Until we do, we really can't comment on it. We have to try to move forward and have it be as little of a distraction as it can be."

The Albany case, along with a similar investigation by federal prosecutors in Rhode Island, is a shift in the fight against doping. Testing may expose athletes who cheat, but it does little to deter those who make, market and distribute performance-enhancing substances.

Stopping the flow of drugs requires punishing the sources, something sports agencies can't do.

"The fact that the investigations are going on and they're proving fruitful and there seems to be intrastate cooperation is particularly encouraging," said Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"The future of the fight of doping in sports is going to involve more and more government agencies," Pound said. "They're the ones who have the power to investigate and the resources to investigate. They have ability to seize evidence ... that sports authorities don't have."

Former Sen. George Mitchell, for example, said Thursday his investigation into steroid use in baseball has been slowed because he doesn't have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents. Baseball hired Mitchell before the 2006 season.

"I believe that despite my lack of subpoena power ... that we'll have a comprehensive report," Mitchell said. "What the lack of subpoena power means is it will take longer, not that it will significantly alter the result."

Several investigators are interviewing baseball personnel at spring training camps. Documents are being reviewed and investigators are negotiating to get other documents, Mitchell said.

In Lakeland, Fla., the Detroit Tigers' Gary Sheffield met with a baseball executives Thursday to discuss recent comments on whether he would cooperate with Mitchell.

Sheffield and Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, declined to comment on the meeting, which also included Bob Lenaghan of the players' union.