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Growing, Growing Gone

Matt Williams, a five time all-star, might not have played as well as he did for seventeen years in the Major Leagues had it not been for human growth hormone. Williams said this week that he'd used the HGH on the advice of a doctor to treat an ankle injury.

The records at the Palm Beach clinic where at least some of Williams' human growth hormone originated indicate that the prescriptions were written by a dentist.

Unless Matt Williams goes to a podiatrist when his teeth hurt, which would suggest that he is confused, his explanation would appear to be suspicious.

Williams was not breaking Major League Baseball's rules when he attempted to either heal himself or enhance his performance or both with HGH. Human growth hormone didn't appear on baseball's list of banned substances until 2005, by which time Matt Williams had retired.

But the matter more intriguing than the distinctions between guilt and innocence, gullibility and culpability, candor and mendacity, or banned and not yet banned is that perhaps fine line between medication that enables someone to play, and medication that enables someone to play better.

Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Byrd, who was resigned this week for seven and a half million dollars, acknowledged during the recently completed post-season that he had used human growth hormone for years. Byrd maintained that he took the HGH under a doctor's supervision for a thyroid condition. Said doctor, unless he was a dentist, was apparently comfortable with Byrd's decision to keep the human growth hormone in a refrigerator in the clubhouse of whatever team was employing him at the time...a practice of which Indians general manager Mark Shapiro says he was ignorant.

Did the HGH compensate for Byrd's thyroid problem and make it possible for him to play? If so, did the HGH also make it possible for him to train harder and pitch more effectively?

And who is best qualified to determine the distinction? Assuming it's not the HGH-dispensing Florida dentist whose license was suspended in 2003 for fraud and incompetence, is it a sportswriter? The Commissioner of Baseball? One or more of the headline-seeking legislators who has railed against drugs in sports?

The 2007-2008 hot stove league may be remembered as the first in which the primary concerns were not statistical, but philosophical.

This program aired on November 8, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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