Updates on Steroid Sting (cont.)
Posted: Thursday March 8, 2007 2:47PM; Updated: Tuesday March 20, 2007 7:24PM
SI.com: Has there been any fallout with respect to other sports figures named in your stories?
Llosa/Wertheim: Gary Matthews Jr. has hired the high-powered attorney, Robert Shapiro, best known for his defense of O.J. Simpson, to represent him in this matter. Shapiro issued a statement on Matthews' behalf that went out over the wire.
We received a call from John Rocker's spokeswoman, Debi Curzio, on Tuesday, who wished to clarify his position. When we initially contacted Rocker, he denied any knowledge of the somatropin prescription or the prescribing physician. Curzio asserted that Rocker did receive the drug but it was prescribed in conjunction with shoulder surgery. According to the documents we reviewed, Rocker received the prescriptions between April and July 2003; he did undergo shoulder surgery in the summer of '03. Remember, too, that in '03, HGH wasn't yet on Major League Baseball's banned substance list. Oddly enough, Rocker went on ESPN radio on Wednesday afternoon and again denied ever receiving the prescriptions in question.
We also received a statement from wrestler Kurt Angle: "I did not improperly receive prescriptions. It is well documented that in my career I have broken vertebrae in my neck on five occasions and each time the course of treatment was under the care and supervision of my doctors. Any attempt to link me to the athletes in the current news accounts who may have improperly sought performance-enhancing drugs is without foundation."
SI.com: Taking this at face value, could athletes such as Angle have been prescribed HGH in conjunction with treatment?
Llosa/Wertheim: This cuts to the heart of why HGH is so controversial. Mark Schutta, a University of Pennsylvania endocrinologist, told us that under Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regulations, HGH, unlike some anabolic steroids, is not a controlled substance. Some doctors contend that HGH -- synthetic human growth hormone -- should be prescribed only in the rarest cases, such as children suffering from dwarfism and patients with AIDS wasting syndrome. They would say that an otherwise healthy adult male in his late 20s has no business using such a prescription-potent drug. Other doctors take a more liberal attitude and contend that HGH has curative properties and can be prescribed "off-label," so to speak.
"To me the question is whether there's a legitimate doctor-patient relationship and, if so, was there a medical necessity for the prescription?" says Carlon Colker, M.D., former competitive bodybuilder and now medical director of Peak Wellness, Inc., which trains elite pro and Olympic athletes. "If there's a doctor-patient relationship and the doctor thought there's a medical necessity, leave the guy alone. If HGH is being prescribed strictly so a guy can throw a perfect game, then it's an abuse."
We have every indication that this scandal is only going to broaden. But already it's become clear that HGH has become an issue the leagues need to face head on.