Matthews: 'I Have Never Taken HGH'

Wednesday, March 14th 2007, 4:07 pm
By: News On 6

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Gary Matthews Jr. ended more than two weeks of silence on Wednesday after being linked to a steroids investigation, denying for the first time that he took human growth hormone.

Matthews allegedly was sent HGH in 2004 from a pharmacy that's part of a widespread steroid investigation. Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno and commissioner Bud Selig had been pushing Matthews to address the issue, and he finally did 16 days after the first stories came out.

``I have never taken HGH _ during the 2004 season or any other time,'' Matthews said in a statement. ``Nobody has accused me of doing so, and no law enforcement authority has said I am a target of any investigation for doing so.''

Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said he was glad Matthews finally addressed the issue and that he denied using HGH.

``We're finding out at the same time you are,'' Stoneman said. ``We're happy to find out that he's saying that he never used HGH. We're an organization that feels there isn't a place in our game for any of these illegal substances. He's denying he ever used something he was linked to.''

HGH was not banned by baseball for players with major league contracts until 2005. This investigation appears to be targeting the suppliers of the substances, not those who might have received anything from the suppliers.

Stoneman said the team had no plans to discipline Matthews. He said it was up to the commissioner's office to determine whether Matthews violated baseball's drug policy.

``My feeling is that as long as this stuff is accurate in what it is and nothing else pops out at some point, we're fine,'' Stoneman said. ``But again, the way it works in baseball is there is a policy between the owners and players that governs these things.''

Selig said it would be inappropriate to comment while his office is investigating the case.

Matthews explained the delay in his denial by saying he and his representatives needed to determine how he got linked to the story.

``Before saying anything publicly I wanted to make absolutely sure of my ground,'' he said. ``In particular, I needed to try to learn whether anybody in authority _ in or out of baseball _ felt they had reason to accuse me of anything with regard to HGH. If they did, I would have to deal with that. It has taken me, and those representing me, 16 days to make certain that's not the case. And that is why it has taken longer than I would have preferred to make a public statement.''

The Times Union of Albany, N.Y., reported Matthews was listed as a customer of Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., which is under investigation for allegedly being part of a national steroids distribution network.

The 32-year-old Matthews, a longtime major league journeyman who had an All-Star season with the Rangers last year, agreed to a $50 million, five-year contract with the Angels in November. A career .263 hitter, he set bests last season with a .313 average, 19 homers and 79 RBIs.

The statement was released by the Angels, and Matthews was not available for comment.

Elsewhere, the prosecutor in Albany, N.Y., who is conducting a nationwide probe in the case plans to forward the names of athletes linked to the inquiry to pro sports leagues.

``We're going to be sending information to vet those names, see if they are who they say they are,'' Albany County District Attorney David Soares first told the New York Daily News in Wednesday's editions.

Albany authorities declined to disclose Wednesday how many athletes have come up in the probe and which sports leagues will get letters. So far, 20 people have been indicted, and several Florida clinics were raided.

Other athletes linked to the scandal, in various reports, are Jose Canseco, John Rocker, Jerry Hairston Jr., David Bell and Darren Holmes, former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, Pittsburgh Steelers doctor Richard Rydze, 1996 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kurt Angle and bodybuilder Victor Martinez.

NFL and baseball officials went to Albany last week to meet with Soares and other investigators.

``We have asked the DA's office for any information that is relevant to the NFL within the constraints of the investigation,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Baseball spokesman Rich Levin said the league has not been contacted yet. ``All we know is what we read in the paper,'' he said.