Gibbons must sit for 15 days

The Baltimore Sun

Major League Baseball yesterday suspended Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons and Kansas City Royals outfielder Jose Guillen 15 days each for violating the league's toughened substance-abuse prevention program, though neither failed a league-initiated drug test.

Gibbons, who admitted yesterday that he had used human growth hormone, had previously avoided allegations that he received shipments of steroids and hGH from a federally raided Florida pharmacy between 2003 and 2005.

"I am deeply sorry for the mistakes that I have made," Gibbons said in a statement first released to The Sun yesterday afternoon. "I have no excuses and bear sole responsibility for my decisions. Years ago, I relied on the advice of a doctor, filled a prescription, charged the hGH, which is a medication, to my credit card and had only intended to help speed my recovery from my injuries and surgeries. I hope that my family, teammates, fans and [Oriole owner] Peter Angelos and the entire Orioles organization will accept my apologies and that we can all move on."

Gibbons, who will be allowed to participate in spring training, will begin serving the suspension at the start of the 2008 regular season.

Orioles president Andy MacPhail issued the following statement after hearing the news: "We completely support the Commissioner's program and his decision with regard to Jay Gibbons' suspension. Jay has acknowledged his mistake, and we appreciate his willingness to accept the consequences."

Guillen, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract with the Royals this week, also received a 15-day suspension yesterday for allegedly receiving shipments of hGH and steroids from a federally investigated Florida wellness center.

Gibbons and Guillen, a former Washington Nationals outfielder, are the first players to be suspended under the substance program without failing a drug test or being arrested or indicted.

The length of the suspensions coincides with the league's penalties when the violations allegedly occurred, primarily in 2003 and 2004. Under current rules, a first-time drug offender would get a 50-game suspension. Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in 2005 for failing a drug test.

Gibbons will not appeal the decision, according to Michael Weiner, general counsel for the players association, but Guillen was planning to appeal.

Gibbons declined to comment further.

Commissioner Bud Selig's office also announced yesterday that it has dropped its steroid investigation into four other players: former Oriole and current Los Angeles Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher-turned-slugger Rick Ankiel and New York Mets reliever Scott Schoeneweis, citing "insufficient evidence" that the program at the time was violated.

An investigation is continuing into two other players: former Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr., a free agent, and Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd.

Gibbons met with MLB officials Sept. 18, about a week after reported that he had received shipments of steroids and hGH from Signature Pharmacy, which is under investigation for illegally distributing prescription medications.

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

According to the report, 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, and hGH was banned in January 2005. The story reported that Gibbons received a shipment of hGH in July 2005 that was obtained through South Beach (Fla.) Rejuvenation Center/Modern Therapy and processed by Signature Pharmacy.

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

A primary reason athletes use hGH is because they believe it can help them return more quickly from serious injuries. Gibbons, the second-longest-tenured Oriole, appeared in just 84 games last year, the fourth time in seven major league seasons that he failed to play in 100 or more games. In the past, he's been riddled with injuries to his shoulder, wrist, hip and back.

Gibbons, 30, was obtained as a Rule 5 player from the Toronto Blue Jays in December 2000. He was named the Most Valuable Oriole in 2003, and he signed a four-year extension worth $21.1 million in 2006.

An avid weightlifter and the club's former union representative, Gibbons was an adamant proponent of leaguewide drug testing. But in 2006, a Los Angeles Times report alleged that Gibbons was named as a steroid user in a federal affidavit given by Jason Grimsley, a former teammate of his. At that time, Gibbons denied ever using steroids.

Eight members of the 2004 Orioles, including Gibbons, have been implicated in steroids and hGH reports over the past three years.

Baseball's independent report on performance-enhancing drugs, conducted by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, is expected by the end of the month, perhaps as early as next week.


Possible benefits to athletes: Increases lean muscle mass and bone thickness. Might increase muscle strength, though many scientific researchers say there is no proof of this. Many athletes who have admitted using hGH say they've done so to recover from injuries. Some doctors believe it helps heal muscle damage. Others say there is no proof it would enhance rehabilitation.

Possible negative effects: Heavy users might quickly experience carpal tunnel swelling in the hands, and long-term use can lead to heart disease, diabetes and debilitating joint swelling. Why it's hard to detect: Growth hormone doesn't show up in the urine tests used by American professional sports leagues. Even in a blood test, synthetic hormone looks similar to the hormone produced naturally by the body. None of the major sports unions has agreed to blood testing.

Athletes linked to hGH: Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons; former Orioles David Segui, Jason Grimsley, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Gary Matthews Jr.; St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel; Kansas City Royals outfielder Jose Guillen; Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus; New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison.

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