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Gibbons tied to hGH

Report: Player received shipments of hormone, testosterone

By Jeff Zrebiec and Dan Connolly

Sun reporters

September 10, 2007

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Orioles outfielder received shipments of steroids and human growth hormone from an Orlando, Fla.-based pharmacy that is at the center of a federal investigation involving performance-enhancing drugs, according to a report last night on SI.com.

Gibbons is the latest athlete to be implicated in the scandal involving Signature Pharmacy, which was raided last spring in a multi-agency bust and is under investigation for illegally distributing prescription medications.

Gibbons, who is in Arizona after having season-ending surgery last month to repair a torn labrum, did not return calls last night seeking comment.

Citing a source in Florida with knowledge of Signature's client list, SI.com reported that Gibbons received six separate shipments of Genotropin, a brand name for synthetic hGH; two shipments of testosterone and two shipments of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy and taken by anabolic steroid users to stimulate the production of testosterone.

According to SI.com, the shipments, which were received between October 2003 and July 2005, were written in Gibbons' name and sent to a Gilbert, Ariz., home that traces back to the player.

Synthetic testosterone was banned by Major League Baseball in 2003, while hGH was banned in January 2005. The story reported that Gibbons received a shipment of hGH in July of that year that was obtained through South Beach (Fla.) Rejuvenation Center/Modern Therapy, and processed by Signature Pharmacy.

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and vice president Mike Flanagan did not return calls seeking comments last night, nor did Orioles manager Dave Trembley or All-Star second baseman , who is Gibbons' closest friend on the team. Gibbons' agents, Sam and Seth Levinson, also didn't return calls from The Sun.

Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka said last night, "We haven't seen the report, so it would not be appropriate to comment at this time."

Gibbons repeatedly has denied ever using steroids. In October 2006, after a Los Angeles Times story alleged that Gibbons and fellow Orioles Roberts and were linked to anabolic steroid use in a federal affidavit given by former teammate Jason Grimsley, Gibbons told The Sun he had never used the illegal drugs.

"I have passed every test administered by Major League Baseball over all the years," Gibbons said. "I have never taken anabolic steroids. And I am not going to dignify these claims and accusations with any further response."

Gibbons, who was the Orioles' union representative during Rafael Palmeiro's failed test in 2005, was an advocate for drug-testing during his time as a rep. He contended that testing would help people such as himself who were workout fiends - and therefore were perceived to be steroid users - but never had used illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Major League Baseball does not believe there is an accurate test for hGH readily available, and therefore does not test for the banned substance.

Several Florida pharmacies were raided, and among those who were allegedly sent shipments of hGH were former Orioles Gary Matthews Jr. and Jerry Hairston Jr. All three were members of the 2002 and 2003 Orioles. At the time, Hairston denied using steroids. SI.com reported that one of Gibbons' prescriptions was signed by A. Almarashi, the same doctor whose name was on prescriptions for Genotropin and HCG that reportedly were sent to Hairston.

SI.com also reported last week that Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus received shipments of Nandrolone and testosterone from the Florida pharmacy between September 2003 and May 2004. Glaus declined to comment on the report.

A day earlier, the New York Daily News reported that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher-turned-slugger Rick Ankiel received shipments of hGH from January to December 2004.

MLB has asked to meet with Ankiel and Glaus.

When Gibbons, who last played Aug. 12 against the Boston Red Sox, chose to have the shoulder surgery, it ended his worst pro season. He was batting .230 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 270 at-bats - all career lows. He is signed through 2009, after agreeing to a four-year, $21.1 million extension in January 2006.

Gibbons has been exceptionally muscular since he joined the Orioles in spring training 2001 as a Rule 5 draft pick from the Blue Jays organization. That year, according to the Orioles' media guide, Gibbons, then 24, was listed at 6 feet and 200 pounds.

The next year, his media guide weight, which usually is recorded during first-day physicals in spring training, dropped from 200 to 190 pounds. It gradually increased each year - 193 in 2003, 197 in 2004, 203 in 2005, 205 in 2006 - before dropping to 197 this season, at age 30.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com dan.connolly@baltsun.com