Pitcher whose home was raided said he used human growth drug, according to affidavit
Lance Williams, Mark Fainaru-Wada, Chronicle Staff Writers
The San Fransisco Chronicle
Thursday, June 8, 2006
A federal raid on the home of a veteran pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks highlights a gaping loophole in Major League Baseball's steroid testing policy and shows that government investigators are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to go after suspected sports drug cheats.
A team of 13 federal agents led by the investigator who ramrodded the BALCO steroids case in San Francisco spent six hours Tuesday searching the Scottsdale home of pitcher Jason Grimsley.
The pitcher, who has played for seven major league teams in his 15-year career, was implicated in drug use when a parcel containing $3,200 worth of the powerful anabolic drug human growth hormone was delivered to his home April 19, according to an affidavit written by Internal Revenue Service special agent Jeff Novitzky.
Novitzky, who was lead investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative steroids case, said federal officers tracked the parcel to Grimsley's home and confronted him.
Grimsley has not been accused of a crime.
In a two-hour interview, the pitcher confessed to using banned drugs throughout his major league career, Novitzky stated. Grimsley told Novitzky and other agents that "boatloads" of other big leaguers also use growth hormone, and he briefly agreed to become a cooperating witness in a widening probe of baseball and steroids, according to the affidavit.
Later, when Grimsley balked at continuing to cooperate, the agents got a warrant to search the player's home, the affidavit says.
Edward F. Novak, Grimsley's attorney, told the Arizona Republic that federal agents tried to pressure his client into wearing a listening device to get other major league players to divulge incriminating evidence against Giants slugger Barry Bonds.
"It was a specific effort to target Bonds," Novak told the paper. "We were told that Jason's cooperation was necessary to their case."
Grimsley is the first reported Major League Baseball player whose home has been raided in connection with performance-enhancing drugs. The Diamondbacks said Wednesday that he requested, and was granted, his release from the team after news accounts of the search.
Documents filed in federal court in Arizona in connection with the raid describe how easily players are eluding Major League Baseball's steroid testing program, which baseball executives have called the toughest in professional sports.
MLB screens players' urine samples for evidence of steroid use, but it does not test for human growth hormone, which can be detected only via a blood sample.
Grimsley told drug agents that after baseball began its steroid testing program, he switched from steroids to growth hormone, according to the affidavit.
Growth hormone is a prescription drug used in medicine to treat dwarfism and AIDS wasting disease. It is illegal to use the drug without a prescription and a doctor's supervision.
From the BALCO case, baseball already knew it had a problem with growth hormone.
Documents seized in the 2003 raid on the Burlingame-based nutritional supplement company implicated six major leaguers, including Bonds, in the use of human growth hormone.
New York Yankees star Jason Giambi admitted to the BALCO grand jury that he used growth hormone and even demonstrated for grand jurors the proper technique for injecting the drug, The Chronicle has reported.
Rep. John Sweeney, R-New York, who has aggressively pushed baseball to toughen its drug policy, cited Grimsley's confession to using growth hormone as "yet another example of a failed policy and undelivered promises by MLB."
He called on the owners and the players to "take immediate action or face congressional interference again."
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said he was "deeply saddened" by the case but declined specific comment.
Selig's point man on steroids, Rob Manfred, released a statement arguing that no valid test exists for growth hormone, although Olympic authorities began using a blood test for growth hormone at the 2004 Athens Games.
The Grimsley court documents show a widening sweep of the government's probe into sports and drugs.
In his affidavit, Novitzky said he was seeking evidence dating back to January 2000 of the illegal distribution of banned drugs by "any and all amateur or professional athletes, athletic coaches or athletic trainers." The agent said he also was seeking evidence of money-laundering.
Grimsley, 38, a right-handed relief pitcher, had his best season in 1999, when he had a won-loss record of 7-2 for the New York Yankees and also won a game in the World Series.
In 2005, Grimsley pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, a team that was racked by a drug scandal after star first baseman Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for the steroid Winstrol. The day Palmeiro returned from his suspension, Grimsley told a Baltimore Sun reporter that fans should know that "steps are being made" to solve the sport's drug problem.
Grimsley joined the Diamondbacks as a free agent this year.
Court records show that the BALCO investigators zeroed in on Grimsley around Opening Day, when they learned that an unnamed drug dealer was about to mail a package containing two "kits" of human growth hormone -- approximate value, $3,200 -- to the pitcher's suburban Phoenix home. Grimsley allegedly told Novitzky the kits were enough to last him through the season.
On April 19, hours before the Diamondbacks were to play the Giants at Chase Field in Phoenix, agents followed the parcel to Grimsley's house.
As soon as the mail was delivered, Novitzky knocked on the door and gave the pitcher a choice: He could tell the agents what he knew, or they were prepared to sweep the house looking for drugs.
Novitzky said he made a "low key" approach to the player "because of a desire to gain Grimsley's cooperation in a covert manner."
Grimsley agreed to cooperate, and he was interviewed for two hours by federal agents, including three from the IRS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration who were involved in the original Burlingame BALCO raid in 2003. According to the affidavit, Grimsley confessed that during his baseball career he had used steroids; human growth hormone; amphetamines; Clenbuterol, an asthma drug that promotes muscle growth much in the way steroids do; and a "prohormone" called 1-AD that he bought on the Internet. In 2000, when his career with the Yankees was interrupted by a shoulder injury, Grimsley said, he used the weightlifter's steroid Deca-Durabolin to speed his recovery from surgery.
In 2003, when baseball conducted its first drug tests, Grimsley said he was informed that he had tested positive for steroids, even though that year's test was supposed to be anonymous and confidential.
After that, Grimsley said, he used only human growth hormone. He said it helped him to recover from elbow surgery after the 2004 season.
Grimsley allegedly said many big leaguers use steroids and named seven present or former big league players as growth hormone users. "Boatloads" of ball players obtained their growth hormone from the same dealer, Grimsley said.
What is human growth hormone?
Medical use: It is an injectable chemical used to correct short stature in children who suffer from growth hormone deficiency. It also is prescribed for AIDS wasting disease.
Performance-enhancing use: Growth hormone builds muscle, especially when taken in combination with steroids. Some users report that the drug strengthens connective tissue and improves eyesight.
Side effects: Thyroid deficiency, enlarged heart and acromegaly, a condition marked by growth of hands, feet and skull.
Sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration; PDRHealth.com; http://www.steroid.com/.
Chronicle staff writer John Shea contributed to this report. E-mail the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.