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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gary Jr.'s woes are growing- NYDailyNews.com

Outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. might see his five-year, $50 million contract go crashing through the wall if the Angels organization gets their way.

Clearly, if he had nothing to hide he would have come out by now and explained his side of the story. With a little more than three weeks remaining until Opening Day it will be interesting to see if the Angels take any course of action.

Angels may void deal


Prosecutors may not be going after users in the ongoing nationwide steroid and HGH sweep, but Major League Baseball is ready to. Los Angeles Angels officials may move ahead with plans to suspend Gary Matthews Jr. or void his five-year, $50 million contract if the outfielder doesn't come clean on his alleged purchase of human growth hormone, according to a major league source who spoke to the Daily News about the standoff.

Matthews, who retained top-flight attorney Robert Shapiro, has deflected questions since he was identified last week as having received drugs from a Mobile, Ala., pharmacy raided by law enforcement agents in August. Albany County district attorney David Soares has led a wide-ranging investigation into a nationwide prescription drug ring in which a dozen people have been indicted in an alleged scheme to traffic steroids and growth hormone over the Internet.

Angels spokesman Tim Mead downplayed punishing Matthews, saying "we're not going down that road now," but the team is open about its frustration. "We want as much information as Gary can provide, but he can't or won't tell us anything," Mead said. "There is a sense of frustration here because of the lack of information. Everyone understands this is a legal issue but there is a sense of frustration. We feel like this is hanging over our heads.

"We'd like this resolved by Opening Day."

Mead wouldn't say what the team would do if Matthews does not cooperate, but the major league source said the Angels are expected to take action. As was the case with Barry Bonds before he finally agreed to his contract at the start of spring training, MLB officials are eager to find a legal tool that will let them chip away at guaranteed contracts, as well as take a hard-line stand on drug cheats. Any attempt to void Matthews' contract or punish him will be met by a union grievance and most likely will end up before an arbitrator, but MLB wants to test contracts any way it can. The Angels and MLB don't think Matthews has a legitimate reason to stay silent.

"There's no reason for him not to say something," the source said. "If he had a prescription (for HGH) and he took it before it was banned, then he doesn't have to worry about anyone punishing him."

Human growth hormone was not banned by Major League Baseball until 2005 but it was illegal to possess without a prescription, although prosecution of users is rare and prosecutors in the current investigation have said they are only targeting suppliers and distributors.

Former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, leading an investigation into baseball's doping past, is also trying to gather information on Matthews and other current and former players named last week, including Jerry Hairston Jr., John Rocker, David Bell and Jose Canseco, and wants to meet with the Albany prosecutors leading the investigation, an Albany County District Attorney spokeswoman said.

MLB and National Football League officials also met with Soares' office yesterday. "They said they were interested in helping the investigation move forward," DA spokeswoman Heather Orth said. "They said they would do anything to help, and they wanted the district attorney to know they wanted to establish a relationship with his office."

League officials did not ask for the identities of players implicated in the alleged steroid ring, or how many players from their sports may be involved, Orth added. Soares said earlier this week that investigators uncovered the names of "many" professional athletes during the course of the probe.

"Our security people were there to listen, to see if there is anything we should know," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

So far all of the names that have emerged from the ongoing investigation have been connected to Allied Pharmacy in Alabama, not Signature, the Orlando pharmacy raided last week, or any of the anti-aging clinics connected to the case.

Originally published on March 8, 2007

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