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Was Lyle Alzado's cancer caused by the performance-enhancing drugs he took—anabolic steroids and human growth hormone? Alzado thinks so, and Dr. Robert Huizenga, one of the physicians treating him, believes Alzado may be right. Huizenga, an internist practicing in Beverly Hills, was one of the Los Angeles Raiders' team doctors from 1983 until last fall. Sources close to the doctor say that Huizenga quit because the Raiders refused to tell a player that the player had a heart condition. Huizenga says that he resigned because of a "misunderstanding about the care the players were receiving." The Raiders deny the sources' claim and say they released Huizenga. With Alzado's permission, Huizenga discussed Alzado's case with SI's Shelley Smith.
SI: Did you know Lyle was taking steroids at the time he was playing for the Raiders?
R.H.: Yes. A difficult thing about medicine is what to do when somebody is doing things you might not agree with. Lyle and I battled since the early 1980s about his ingestion of certain things. I tried to be there and not be judgmental.
SI: What steroids did he take in those days?
R.H.: To my knowledge he took everything—injectable, oral, he cycled. When he played, we talked about it because his blood tests suggested he was taking massive amounts of steroids, but he never really discussed doses. He said in generalities what he was taking. Despite my admonitions that this was a major health risk, he kept doing it. He said it was a risk he wanted to take.
SI: When did you learn of his illness?
R.H.: He came to me at the end of February with symptoms of dizziness, loss of coordination of the right side of his body, double vision and slurred speech. Through a series of tests we were finally able to diagnose that he has a form of brain cancer that is very, very rare. He has T-cell lymphoma. That isn't to be confused with B-cell lymphoma, which is the lymphoma most commonly linked with AIDS.
SI: What kind of human growth hormone (HGH) was he taking?
R.H.: There are two types of human growth hormone. One is taken from cadaver pituitary glands and is homogenized and purified as much as possible. And then there is the genetically engineered hormone. He injected the genetically engineered hormone.
SI: We've had reports that Lyle may have taken cadaver-type human growth hormone before last year. Do you have any knowledge of this?