Matthews says he's never taken HGH

Matthews: I never took HGH

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It took 16 days from the initial report to Wednesday's statement, but Gary Matthews Jr. finally used the words that the Angels brass wanted to hear:

"I have never taken Human Growth Hormone (HGH) -- during the 2004 season or any other time," the Los Angeles center fielder said in a statement released just after 10 a.m. MT at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

With that, there was a mammoth sigh of relief emitted in the Angels offices -- notably from owner Arte Moreno and general manager Bill Stoneman.

"As an organization, we felt it was important for Gary to address the media regarding his situation," Moreno said in a club-issued statement. "Today he honored that request and issued his own statement. Now, it's time for us to continue our preparation and focus on the season ahead."

Said Stoneman, during a quick press briefing: "As long as this stuff's accurate and is what it is. As long as nothing else pops out, we're fine."

Matthews' name surfaced on Feb. 27 in a newspaper report of an investigation of a drug lab -- Applied Pharmacy Services in Mobile, Ala., -- for selling HGH illegally. Matthews was alleged to have bought the drug via the Internet during the 2004 season, when it wasn't among the substances banned by MLB's joint drug policy.

Since then, Matthews, who signed a five-year, $50 million contract this past offseason, has been under pressure from Moreno, Stoneman and manager Mike Scioscia to make a statement on the issue. Even Commissioner Bud Selig joined in last weekend, saying he agreed with Moreno.

All parties were seeking a resolution by the end of Spring Training.

Matthews acquiesced on Wednesday, saying that he had received sufficient assurances from Major League Baseball, the union and the law enforcement agencies involved that he was not under investigation.

"We are aware that Matthews has made a statement today concerning allegations about HGH," Selig said in a statement on Wednesday. "At this point, my office is still investigating the matter in question and it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on the subject of Mr. Matthews' statement."

Matthews hasn't been charged with a crime and he hasn't failed a drug test under the auspices of the drug policy that is managed jointly between MLB and the players association. HGH is among the drugs now outlawed in the policy, but it was only added to the banned list beginning with the 2005 season. Not withstanding that fact, there is no current test -- either urine or blood -- that's reliable to detect the use of HGH.

Matthews made it clear that he had waited to issue his statement after consultation with his attorney and the players association.

"Before I said anything publicly I wanted to make absolutely sure of my ground," Matthews 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 Angels seemed to be good with that.

"It's Gary's story. It's what happened to him," Scoiscia said just after the statement was handed out. "He wanted to tell it, and he wanted to tell it sooner. It's a positive. It will help get us where we need to be. I'm sure he's relieved. We'll put this behind us and move on. It was our preference to have it come out in a timely manner but we understood where he was at. We're happy this is coming forward now."

The Angels' frustration had mounted because they were kept in the dark by Matthews just like everyone else. "We're finding out at the same time you are that he didn't use HGH," Stoneman said.

Matthews made it clear in his statement that he never used the drug -- not in 2004, not now and not in the interim.

"I don't condone the use of illegal drugs," he said. "I support Mr. Moreno's strong stand against them. I have never taken HGH -- during the 2004 season or any other time. Nobody has accused me of doing so, and no law enforcement authority has said I am a target of any investigation for doing so.

"As I have now learned, people have recently been arrested and charged with crimes for prescribing and selling HGH in illegal ways. I knew nothing about the current investigation before it hit the press."

Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.