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Ankiel responds to HGH report

Ankiel responds to HGH report

PHOENIX -- Rick Ankiel said on Friday that he procured medicine, possibly including human growth hormone, from a Florida clinic in 2004 that was prescribed by a physician during his recovery from Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his left elbow a year earlier.

Ankiel, the St. Louis pitcher turned hitter who has nine homers since he was brought up from the Minors on Aug. 10, was responding to a report in Friday's New York Daily News that he received a 12-month supply of HGH from an Internet pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription-drug-distribution operation.

Ankiel said the medicines were prescribed to him as part of his recovery and that he knowingly took them.

"Correct," he said, while seated in the Cardinals dugout next to general manager Walt Jocketty several hours before St. Louis played the D-backs on Friday in a game that had playoff implications for both clubs. "Any medication I received in my career has always been under a doctor's care."

When asked twice specifically if that included HGH, Ankiel would neither confirm nor deny that allegation.

"I'm not going to go into the list of what my doctors have prescribed for me," said Ankiel, who was in the starting lineup and batting second. "I've been through a lot emotionally and physically. There are doctor-patient privileges, and I hope you guys respect those privileges."

Later in the five-minute, 35-second, session he added: "I respect the integrity of the game, and I'm on the same playing level that everyone else is on."

Jocketty said he had instigated discussions with Major League Baseball officials about the issue. But he also said because of patient-client privilege and privacy laws, he did not have information about what drugs Ankiel used even if it was prescribed by the team's own physicians.

"I have been in touch with MLB officials," Jocketty said. "They didn't call me. I called them. They'll look at it, I'm sure, and let us know what their findings are."

Rich Levin, a spokesman for MLB, said the Commissioner's office, was aware of the Ankiel allegations and an SI.com story that also was posted on Friday saying that Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus had received anabolic steroids and testosterone from the same Florida pharmacy -- Signature -- during the same time period.

"Yeah, we're going to look into it," Levin said of both cases, which stemmed from the same investigation by the Albany, N.Y., District Attorney's office.

Earlier this season, Commissioner Bud Selig reportedly threatened to suspend Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi if he didn't testify before the committee headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell investigating baseball's so-called steroid era. The directive came after Giambi made comments about his own steroid use in USA Today.

Giambi talked to Mitchell with the proviso that he didn't have to testify about drug use by other players. Selig ultimately declined to suspend Giambi after he became the only active player to appear before Mitchell's committee, which is expected to issue its report by the end of the year.

Levin wouldn't speculate whether Selig would insist that Ankiel and Glaus also testify before the committee.

But Ankiel said he was not concerned about such a possibility.

"I'll be happy to help with anything MLB wants to talk about," he said.

After a series of on-the-field mishaps and baseball-related arm injuries, Ankiel retired as a pitcher in 2005 and began to work his way back as a hitter, a comeback that was put on hold when he missed the 2006 season because of a left knee injury.

Ankiel came up as a 20-year-old phenom whose career as a pitcher was derailed by a spate of wildness in the postseason. He returned about a month ago as a 27-year-old outfielder. He's been a big part of his club's resurgence since then and was batting .358 with then nine homers and 19 RBIs in his first 81 at-bats. He had seven RBIs on two homers and a double as the Cardinals buried the Pirates, 16-4, at Busch Stadium on Thursday.

Jocketty, for his part, said he was blindsided by the allegations published in the Daily News, which were supported, the newspaper said, by documents that include a list of clients for the pharmacy, which is based in Orlando.

The Cardinals, though, certainly support Ankiel, who lives in Jupiter, Fla., Jocketty said.

"We know that he was under the care of licensed physicians in Florida for injury and the surgery he had," Jocketty said. "The medication and prescriptions he received were legal and [written] by licensed physicians. There were no violations of MLB rules. There were no violations of any laws. At this point, if there's anything more to decide, MLB will look at it and let us know and we'll deal with them."

Ankiel's HGH use would not have been covered under MLB's Joint Drug and Prevention Policy because the drug wasn't banned in 2004. That season, there was also no penalty if a Major League player initially tested positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Even now, with HGH on the list, there's no known blood or urine test that accurately isolates the use of HGH, and MLB has funded a study by a West Coast lab, which has been trying for several years to develop a viable test.

There are also exclusions in the current Major League drug policy in which players can receive permission from MLB to use a particular banned drug if it is for a verifiable medical use.

As far as Ankiel is concerned, the Daily New said his prescriptions were signed by Florida physician William Gogan, who provided them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called The Health and Rejuvenation Center. The drugs were ordered via the Internet and shipped by Signature Pharmacy to Ankiel at the clinic's address.

Ankiel acknowledged that he picked up his prescribed drugs at the clinic, but he added that he had no knowledge of the pharmacy.

"I'm familiar with the clinic," he said. "As far as the pharmacy goes, I don't know anything about the pharmacy. I don't know anyone there. I've never purchased or ordered anything from that pharmacy."

When asked why his name and date of birth were on a pharmacy client list, Ankiel said: "I'm not sure. I don't know anything about that pharmacy."

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

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