Major League Baseball officials want more information on allegations the Los Angeles Angels outfielder received human growth hormone from a pharmacy that's part of a widespread steroid investigation.
"We're looking into it," baseball spokesman Rich Levin said Thursday. "I know our people are going to contact the Albany district attorney."
Four more people are expected to surrender in Albany, N.Y., on Monday as part of the investigation into an illicit steroid distribution network that may be responsible for Internet sales of performance-enhancing drugs nationwide. Though Matthews, former baseball star Jose Canseco and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield were reportedly among the customers, district attorney P. David Soares has repeatedly said physicians and distributors, not users, are his focus.
Eight people in three states already have been arrested, and as many as 24 could face felony charges by the time the investigation is over. Indictments remain sealed until defendants appear in Albany County Court.
"My interest is in shutting down the faucet," Soares said, "and not just putting cups under the faucet catching drips."
In Orlando, Fla., where raids took place earlier this week, four defendants waived extradition. However, their attorneys requested they be released on bond, fitted with global tracking monitors and allowed to turn themselves in to New York authorities.
Orange County Judge Mike Murphy denied the bond request but said if New York authorities did not pick up the defendants by March 8, he would reconsider bond.
Federal and state agents raided two pharmacies in Orlando on Tuesday in connection with the investigation. An Albany County grand jury also has indicted the two owners of Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., according to the Times Union of Albany, which first disclosed the investigation.
Matthews, Canseco and Holyfield allegedly were on Applied Pharmacy's customer list, the Times Union said. And SI.com reported that Matthews was sent Genotropin, a brand of synthetic growth hormone, in August 2004.
The drug, which came from Applied Pharmacy, was sent to the address in Mansfield, Texas, of one of Matthews' former minor league teammates, according to the Internet site.
Matthews has declined to answer specific questions about the allegations.
"When I get more information from my people, I can say more," he said at the Angels' spring training camp in Tempe, Ariz.
Human growth hormone wasn't included in Major League Baseball's list of banned substances until after the 2004 season. But the collective bargaining agreement in effect at the time said players could be penalized for criminal convictions for the use, sale or distribution of prohibited substances.
HGH is a rarely prescribed drug whose legal uses have to be specifically approved by the Health and Human Services secretary. But it's become popular on the black market with people looking to gain strength or reverse the aging process.
The Albany case - along with a similar investigation by federal prosecutors in Rhode Island - are a shift in the fight against doping. Testing may expose athletes who cheat, but it does little to deter those who make, market and distribute performance-enhancing substances. Stopping the flow of drugs requires punishing the sources - something sports agencies can't do.
"The fact that the investigations are going on and they're proving fruitful and there seems to be intrastate cooperation is particularly encouraging," said Dick Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
"The future of the fight of doping in sports is going to involve more and more government agencies," Pound said. "They have ability to seize evidence ... that sports authorities don't have."
Former Sen. George Mitchell, for example, said Thursday his investigation into steroid use in baseball has been slowed because he doesn't have the power to subpoena witnesses or documents. Baseball hired Mitchell before the 2006 season.
In Lakeland, Fla., the Detroit Tigers' Gary Sheffield met with a baseball executive Thursday to discuss recent comments on whether he would cooperate with Mitchell.