Saying he is not a cheater, Triple-A Norfolk pitcher Eddie Gamboa said he took a prescription drug for a thyroid condition he has battled for years. That led to his 50-game suspension that was announced earlier this month by Major League Baseball.
Gamboa has begun serving the suspension, which ends Aug. 5. He is currently working out at the Orioles facilities in Sarasota, Fla.
In his first interview since being suspended, Gamboa told MASNsports.com his condition was severe at times and began to impact his everyday life. He tried to get an exemption for the prescription drug he was taking, but his effort to do that was denied.
The commissioner's office announced his suspension on June 13. He received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for exogenous testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
"I've been dealing with fatigue and a little bit of anxiety for a couple years now," Gamboa said by phone from Florida yesterday. "A lot of it has to do with, I have hypothyroidism. Thyroid medicine was supposed to help this but I was still feeling symptoms. I wanted to stay in bed, had no energy to do anything and had a hard time staying focused.
"I was tired of feeling that way and I went to numerous doctors and the Orioles doctors to get information back. I was prescribed medication and one of the ingredients in the medication came back and was testosterone. I wanted help, I wanted to feel good and live a quality life. This was more about my health than just baseball.
"It contained out-of-body testosterone. It was prescribed from four or five doctors I saw. Synthetic testosterone that your body doesn't create. People when they get popped (suspended) they have high numbers of this, I guess. I don't even know really.
"What I do know is when you get big and bulky, your testosterone levels have to be really high. Mine were normal. I was under a prescribed medication from a doctor. The doctor knew what is best for me for my quality of life. Unfortunately, it came back positive for something that was banned.
"I fought this. I had all my documents, had letters from all my doctors and I appealed it, but we still lost," Gamboa said.
Gamboa insists this had nothing to do with trying to enhance his performance.
"I understand what MLB is doing," he said. "I agree with them completely for being very strict. Everyone has to abide by the rules and I am no different. It is my fault. I have to know what I am putting into my body.
"But I wasn't doing this as a performance enhancer. I'm a knuckleball pitcher. I don't throw anything above 80 mph. This was for me to live a healthy life.
"I wish every case was individualized. A 50-game suspension makes it look like I am a cheater. I don't agree with that, but it is what it is. I just want to live and play baseball without yawning on the mound."
Gamboa said this was the first time he has had any issues with the minor league drug program.
"Absolutely," he said. "I have been a rule follower my whole life. Everything is by the book. When it comes down to my health, I had to pick one or the other. My health is very important to me. Didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I was under the care of doctors and trying to take care of my body."
Gamboa did not have the name of the prescription he was taking during our interview but it's believed that is was for Levothyroxine.
Did he understand he was taking a drug that contained a banned substance?
"I wasn't sure," Gamboa said. "I was kind of iffy. It's medicine you are not really sure of. I was kind of scared about it, I won't lie about that. That's a tough one."
But when questioned further, Gamboa did admit he could have been knowingly taking a banned substance.
"They (doctors) made me aware it could be something that may be illegal and that was why we tried to get the therapeutic use of exemption," he said. "But it didn't happen and it was a shot to the gut. But I'm still here and will be OK.
"This was eight years of me feeling like crap and having no energy, having anxiety. Things people my age should not be going through. This was, I don't want to say my cure, but this was going to make me feel better.
"There were times I literally felt like I was dying. I couldn't function at all. My thyroid wasn't doing its job. The thyroid controls just about everything in your body. That was a scary thing for me."
The suspension came at a time when Gamboa was pitching very well and the O's brass was taking notice.
The day this news came out, Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Gamboa, "He really emerged. ... He was on the radar here, so it's unfortunate."
Gamboa is 4-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 14 games, including 12 starts, for the Tides. But Gamboa has an ERA of 3.28 in eight starts since May 1 and 1.44 over his last four Norfolk starts before the suspension.
Gamboa said it took years for his condition to be properly diagnosed and he had a lot of blood work done and even had an MRI on his brain.
"I'm going to deal with this, continue to throw here in Florida, overcome this and hopefully come back stronger than I was," he said.
I asked Gamboa what reaction he has gotten from the Orioles over his suspension.
"I spoke with (Orioles director of minor league operations) Kent Qualls and he's been great with keeping me positive and up to date with everything and this process," Gamboa said. "Other than that, I have not spoken with anyone but my team and coaches in Norfolk.
"The Orioles know I wasn't doing anything to get an edge. Hopefully, they understand and we can move on from this. But it's disappointing for me and my family and how the way this looks. But I'll deal with the consequences and come back and continue to do what I love to do."
Photo courtesy of Les Treagus/Norfolk Tides.
Minors moves: Some players are on the move today in the Orioles minor leagues. They are three 26-year-old left-handed pitchers with Nick Additon moving from Triple-A Norfolk to Double-A Bowie, Ashur Tolliver from Single-A Frederick to Bowie and Jason Gurka from Bowie to Norfolk.
Gurka will start for the Tides tonight at Pawtucket. Gurka is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.84 for Bowie. Over 50 2/3 he has walked 13 and fanned 44 with a .221 average against. He made a start for Norfolk on May 27 and gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Tolliver was 0-1 with an ERA of 2.45 in nine games for Frederick. Over 14 2/3 innings he walked two with 15 strikeouts. Tolliver was with Bowie earlier this year going 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA over seven games.
Additon was 3-3 with an ERA of 4.21 in 20 games and seven starts for Norfolk. In 62 innings he allowed 66 hits with 33 walks and 42 strikeouts.
Also today Bowie transferred pitcher Kevin Gausman to the Orioles taxi squad. He will be activated by the Orioles and start Game 1 of Friday's day-night doubleheader against Tampa Bay.