Nearly a year after the Rafael Palmeiro steroid scandal and months removed from the federal government's inquiries into Miguel Tejada's vitamin B-12 usage, the Orioles are again intertwined in an investigation involving drugs and baseball.
Former Orioles reliever Jason Grimsley told Internal Revenue Service investigators that he purchased human growth hormone between 10 and 12 times in the past several years and also admitted he paid for a double shipment while with the Orioles, according to a federal affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona.
In addition, Grimsley said amphetamine usage was rampant in the sport and he appears to have named several members of last year's Orioles as amphetamine users during an April interview with IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky, the lead investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative illegal steroids ring.
Grimsley, who asked for and received his release from the Arizona Diamondbacks yesterday, a day after the search-warrant affidavit was discovered, was an Oriole from June 2004 until the end of last season, though he spent a large chunk of time on the disabled list.
He could not be reached for comment and his agent, Joe Bick, refused comment. Grimsley allegedly withdrew his cooperation in April, leading to the extensive search of his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., on Tuesday.
According to the affidavit, which was uncovered by The Arizona Republic, Grimsley tells Novitzky that last season he and three other players discussed the challenge of playing without amphetamines in 2006. By using the word "his," the affidavit implies he was talking about a trio of Orioles teammates, though specific names and the word "teammate" are redacted. Grimsley also suggests in the affidavit that one Oriole "talked openly" about his amphetamine use.
Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan said he reviewed the affidavit yesterday, which was the first time he had heard about Grimsley's law trouble, his potential steroid use and further allegations involving the Orioles.
"At this point, I am aware of the affidavit. I read some of it today. I am not very good at filling in the blanks at this point," Flanagan said. "I haven't heard a whole lot about it, the timeline and such. He didn't spend a whole lot of time here in the last year and a half."
Flanagan also said: "I think you're always surprised to go down this path."
The Orioles went down an eerily similar path last August when Palmeiro tested positive for the steroid stanozolol and was suspended 10 days. His return to the team caused animosity within the clubhouse that only grew when he reportedly suggested to a congressional committee that he may have received a tainted syringe of liquid B-12 from star teammate Tejada.
"It's like another Palmeiro issue," said Orioles designated hitter Javy Lopez. "I just hope he didn't mention any guys here. That would be shocking news again. That's the last thing we need here, the same kind of thing that pushed us back last year."
Third baseman Melvin Mora agreed.
"I hope nothing negative comes from this in the clubhouse," Mora said. "We have a lot of young guys in here, and we don't need what happened last year to happen again."
On the day Palmeiro returned to the Orioles last August, Grimsley was one of the players vocally in his corner, saying: "He's my teammate. I'll go to war with him any day."
Yesterday, the Orioles showed surprise that Grimsley would be at the center of an hGH investigation.
"It's sad," Lopez said. "He used to be a great guy with us. If he was doing it, he hid it pretty well."
Grimsley, a 38-year-old right-hander in his 15th season in the majors, was approached by federal agents at his Arizona home April 19 about a U.S. mail package consisting of human growth hormone, according to the affidavit.
Instead of having the federal agents search the house, Grimsley said he would cooperate with Novitzky in an interview at another location.
During that discussion, Grimsley admitted that he had failed a steroids test in 2003 - when Major League Baseball did not publicize the names or have penalties - and had since limited his steroids use to human growth hormone, which is banned by baseball but hard to detect, especially through urine testing.
On multiple occasions, he said, he purchased hGH kits, which normally cost $1,600, and he confirmed that a $3,200 check he had written on July 20, 2004, was for a previous purchase of hGH.
That check was written a month after he was traded to the Orioles by the Kansas City Royals for promising pitcher Denny Bautista.
Grimsley pitched in 41 games for the Orioles in 2004 but eventually tore a ligament in his right elbow and had Tommy John surgery in October. Normally, it would take a year to return, but Grimsley made it back by last July to pitch in 22 games. It was one of the quickest returns ever; Grimsley credited his faith and his desire to pitch again.
Dr. Gary Wadler, an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine and a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said hGH might or might not help in the recuperation process. But because it enlarges the muscles and is undetectable through urine testing, it is a popular drug for athletes.
Wadler has been a strong proponent of blood tests - something currently not utilized in baseball's testing program - to detect use of hGH.
"It should come as no surprise that growth hormone is a problem in baseball," Wadler said. "I cannot be persuaded on any logical basis for not having the [blood] test available."
There is currently no widely used test for hGH. A blood test does exist, but is not yet broadly available. It was used on a few hundred athletes at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, and at the Winter Games earlier this year in Turin, Italy.
Baseball, however, contends there is no viable blood test available to detect hGH, but says MLB, working with scientists, is attempting to create a urine test.
Researchers are now working to come up with a version of the test that can be mass-produced. "Hopefully in the near future we will be able to test on a larger scale," said Frederic Donze, a spokesman for the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Congressmen who have followed the steroids issue closely since 2005's House Government Reform Committee hearings, are again watching the off-field baseball drama unfold.
"The absence of testing for hGH in baseball's drug policy is a huge loophole," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the top-ranking Democrat on the committee. "If the allegations in the Grimsley affidavit are true, players are still using this performance-enhancing drug."
First discovered in 1956, hGH is produced in the body by the pituitary gland, a small gland at the center of the brain. The substance can now be artificially synthesized and is available legally only by prescription.
Doctors typically prescribe it to excessively short children to help them reach normal height, and to AIDS patients who suffer from muscle wasting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun