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Gibbons received banned drugs

O's outfielder latest athlete tied to pipeline pharmacy

Posted: Sunday September 9, 2007 7:12PM; Updated: Sunday September 9, 2007 7:12PM
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By Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim, SI.com

In the ever-widening Signature Pharmacy scandal, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons is the latest pro athlete tied to an alleged illegal internet drug distribution network. According to information obtained by SI, Gibbons received shipments of performance-enhancing steroids and human growth hormone (HGH) from an Orlando-based compound pharmacy raided last spring as part of a multi-agency bust, even after both drugs were on Major League Baseball's banned substance list.

A source in Florida with knowledge of Signature Pharmacy's client list alleges that between October 2003 and July 2005, Gibbons received six separate shipments of Genotropin (a brand name for synthetic Human Growth Hormone), two shipments of testosterone and two shipments of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone produced naturally during pregnancy, but taken by anabolic steroid users to stimulate the production of testosterone, which is suppressed as a result of steroid use. The information regarding Gibbons only pertains to receipt and not actual use of the drugs.

Testosterone was banned by MLB in 2003, the same year baseball initiated steroids testing. HGH was added to the banned list in January 2005, but Gibbons allegedly received a shipment in July of that year. (HCG is not banned.) The prescriptions were written in Gibbons' name and sent to a Gilbert, Ariz., address that traces to the player.

The drugs were obtained through South Beach Rejuvenation Center/Modern Therapy, a Miami Beach anti-aging clinic, and were processed by Signature. Of the two prescribing physicians in Gibbons' file, one was A. Almarashi. Investigators believe Almarashi is an alias for a Queens, N.Y., doctor, Ana Maria Santi, who was stripped of her medical license in 1999, but continued writing bogus prescriptions for thousands of on-line customers she never examined. In July 2007, Santi pleaded guilty to a felony count of criminal diversion of prescription medications and prescriptions, making her the first person to do so in a case spearheaded by the Albany County (NY) District Attorneys office and New York State's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

The "Almarashi" signature was also affixed to prescriptions for Genotropin and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) allegedly sent to Texas Rangers outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr. in 2004. In Hairston's case, the drugs originated from a compound pharmacy in Alabama, according to documents reviewed by SI, but similar to the Gibbons' case, the information pertained only to the receipt of and not actual use of the drugs. Moreover, Genotropin was not yet banned by MLB.

Hairston and Gibbons were teammates in Baltimore at the time. (Hairston, a third-generation major leaguer, has emphatically denied any connection. "Not one time have I taken steroids or anything like that," he told SI last March. "I would never do anything like that to jeopardize my career or my family's name.")

Gibbons, 30, has spent his entire Major League career with the Orioles, and made his big-league debut in April 2001. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 13 with a right labrum tear. He did not respond to messages left on his cell phone and with the Orioles' media relations department.

Since last summer, Sports Illustrated reporters Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim have been investigating an alleged illegal steroid distribution network that has implicated pro athletes. On Feb. 27, the reporters accompanied federal and state drug enforcement agents on a coordinated raid of an Orlando compound pharmacy and a Jupiter, Fla., "anti-aging" clinic that investigators allege conspired to fraudulently prescribe steroids, human growth hormone and other performance enhancing drugs over the Internet.