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Matthews could face 80-game suspension

His alleged involvement in purchase of human growth hormone is at issue. Angels continue to pressure their center fielder to address situation.

March 07, 2007|Bill Shaikin and Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writers

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Even if he has not failed a drug test, Angels center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. could be suspended for up to 80 games for his alleged involvement in the purchase of human growth hormone.

In addition to a 50-game penalty for a first positive test, baseball's drug policy mandates a suspension from 60 to 80 games following a first conviction for "possession or use of any prohibited substance."

The clause is triggered when a player is convicted or pleads guilty or no contest. However, Matthews could receive immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony in a possible trial.

"If he has immunity, he's out of the woods on that clause," said Brian Hennigan, a former federal prosecutor now with the Los Angeles law firm Irell & Manella.

Matthews allegedly ordered HGH three years ago, according to documents reviewed by Sports Illustrated. David Soares, the New York prosecutor leading the investigation, said he was focused on drug distributors, not recipients and has not said whether Matthews or any other consumer linked to the investigation would be exempt from prosecution or would be asked to testify at a possible trial.

After former pitcher Jason Grimsley acknowledged in a federal affidavit last year that he had received a shipment of human growth hormone, he was suspended 50 games -- on the basis of his admission that he used banned substances, not on the basis of a positive test.

It is unclear whether baseball would suspend Matthews if he testified he received HGH.

The Angels, meanwhile, continue their attempts to persuade Matthews into addressing the allegations. Owner Arte Moreno expressed his frustration with Matthews on Sunday, and Tuesday, General Manager Bill Stoneman applied more pressure on him.

"We've made it clear to him that we want him to make a statement," Stoneman said. "We've encouraged him to get the facts out, get his side of the story out, whatever that story is. I understand that when lawyers get involved they generally tell you to be quiet about things. That doesn't address the public side of it."

Matthews, who signed a five-year, $50-million deal with the Angels in November, has been advised by his attorney, Robert Shapiro, not to comment until the investigation is complete.

"If you want to talk about baseball, about yesterday's game, we can talk about that," Matthews said Tuesday. "If you want to talk about getting prepared for the season, we can talk about that."

Two more baseball players, former reliever John Rocker and veteran third baseman David Bell, were linked to the scandal Tuesday. Sports Illustrated reported they were on a client list of Applied Pharmacy, a Mobile, Ala., company raided in connection with the investigation.

*

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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