Comeback kid Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals received a year’s supply of human growth hormone in 2004, the Daily News reported Friday.
The pitcher-turned-outfielder is the latest athlete to be linked to the Florida pharmacy at the center of an investigation by the Albany County (N.Y.) district attorney’s office into the illegal Internet distribution of performance-enhancing drugs.
The feel-good story of the baseball season, Ankiel drove in seven runs Thursday and has been a hitting star for the Cardinals since he was called up from the minors last month. He was once a young phenom on the mound with St. Louis before an embarrassing bout of wildness and injuries derailed his pitching career.
Citing records the newspaper obtained, the Daily News said Ankiel got eight shipments of human growth hormone from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando from January to December 2004, including Saizen and Genotropin, two injectable drugs.
Florida physician William Gogan signed Ankiel’s prescriptions, providing them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called The Health and Rejuvenation Center, or THARC, the newspaper reported.
The drugs were shipped to Ankiel at the clinic’s address, the paper said. The 28-year-old Ankiel lives close by in Jupiter.
When contacted by The Associated Press, Ankiel’s agent, Scott Boras, said he couldn’t comment because of medical privacy laws.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told the Daily News. “If it’s true, obviously it would be very tragic, along with everything else we’ve had happen to us this year.”
Major League Baseball doesn’t test for HGH, and the sport didn’t ban human growth hormone until 2005. But a player who possessed it or used it after it was banned can be suspended for 50 games.
Authorities have not accused Ankiel of any wrongdoing, the newspaper said. According to the Signature records the News cited, he stopped receiving HGH just before baseball banned it in 2005.
The Daily News said Major League Baseball officials declined to comment, saying they would “look into” the allegations but weren’t sure if any action could be taken.
Ankiel homered twice Thursday and had a career-high seven RBIs, leading the Cardinals past the Pittsburgh Pirates 16-4 in a game shortened to eight innings because of rain.
Brought up Aug. 9 in his first major league appearance since he pitched for St. Louis in 2004, Ankiel is batting .358 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in 23 games. He also homered twice against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 11.
He hit 32 home runs in Triple-A this season before the Cardinals summoned him. St. Louis (69-68) is 17-9 since, closing within one game of NL Central co-leaders Chicago and Milwaukee.
According to the Daily News, THARC also shipped steroids and growth hormone to ex-big league pitcher Steve Woodard. He and Ankiel were teammates with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in 2004, the paper said.
Woodard didn’t return cell phone messages, the News said.
Signature is at the center of an investigation by the Albany district attorney’s office. Authorities there have been looking into an Internet ring involving performance-enhancing drugs and allegedly involving athletes from several sports.
The probe recently led to the NFL suspensions of New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.
The third NFL person involved in the investigation was Dr. Richard Ryzde, one of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team doctors. He had earlier been fired by the team.