Cleveland outfield Marlon Byrd’s second strike with performance-enhancing drugs cost him a full season — and maybe his career.
Byrd was suspended 162 games without pay by Major League Baseball on Wednesday after testing positive for Ipamorelin, a growth hormone releasing peptide.
The announcement came one day before the Royals open a four-game series in Cleveland on Thursday. Byrd was hitting .333 (2 for 6) in two games against the Royals this season.
“Today, I have accepted a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball,” Byrd said in a statement. “Recently, I was notified that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, a peptide prohibited by the JDA. In 2012, I tested positive for the medication Tamoxifen, which I was using on the advice of a physician for a medical condition resulting from surgery, and I accepted my suspension without challenge.
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“Since that time, I have paid close attention to the substances that are banned by the Joint Drug Agreement, as I had no intention of taking any banned substances. I relied upon a medical professional for assistance and advice with respect to the supplements that I was taking. However, certain supplements I was taking were not on the NSF Certified for Sport list, and therefore, I assumed certain risks in taking them. When I learned that I had tested positive for Ipamorelin, I retained the services of private counsel and an independent chemist to determine the origin of the Ipamorelin test result because I never knowingly ingested Ipamorelin.
“After an extensive investigation by my lawyers and an independent chemist, it was concluded that the most likely source of Ipamorelin was a tainted supplement. I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and therefore, I have decided to forgo my right to an appeal in this matter and accept the suspension. I apologize for any harm this has caused the Cleveland Indians, Indians’ fans, my teammates, and most importantly, my family.”
It’s Byrd’s second violation of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Shortly after he was released in 2012 by Boston, Byrd served a 50-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen, a medication used by body builders but also to treat breast cancer in women and men.
In 2014, MLB increased its penalty for a second offense in 2014 from 100 games to a full season.
A third suspension would result in a lifetime ban. In February, New York Mets pitcher Jenrry Meija became the first player to receive that sanction. Byrd, Meija and New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez are the only players to receive full-season suspensions.
Even if he’s able stay clean, at 38, Byrd’s playing days appear over.
He signed a one-year, $1 million contract as a free agent in March with Cleveland, which needed veteran outfield depth because both left fielder Michael Brantley and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall were recovering from injuries.
Byrd has been productive, batting .270 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 34 games — mostly against left-handers. He went 4 for 4 with a homer on Monday night against Texas, and then struck out three times in a loss Tuesday. He spent last season with Cincinnati and San Francisco.
Byrd broke in with Philadelphia in 2002. He was an All-Star in 2010 with the Chicago Cubs, one of 10 teams he’s played for. Following his first suspension, Byrd signed with the New York Mets in 2013. To replace Byrd on the roster, the Indians recalled outfielder Tyler Naquin from Class AAA Columbus.