- Dr. Richard A. Rydze, 62, faces a 185-count indictment for allegedly dispensing the drugs
- Two other men -- William Zipf, 56, and James Hatzimbes, 42 -- are accused of related conduct
- The veteran football doctor told ESPN that the practice never involved Steelers team members
- He said the "whole thing got way overblown"
A former team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers was arrested Friday on charges of conspiracy to illegally distribute anabolic steroids, human growth hormone and painkillers to his patients, though authorities declined to comment on whether the drugs were ever prescribed to players.
Dr. Richard A. Rydze, 62, faces a 185-count indictment for allegedly dispensing the drugs from September 2007 through March 2011, though other related charges date back to 2005, prosecutors said.
"Doctors have a tremendous power in prescribing medication, and the vast majority use that power to dispense medicine to help sick people," said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. "This doctor is accused of using his prescription pad like a personal ATM, doling out steroids, painkillers and other medicine for his own gain."
Two other men -- William Zipf, 56, and James Hatzimbes, 42 -- were also indicted, accused of related conduct, the U.S. attorney said in a statement.
Rydze and his alleged co-conspirators are accused of enriching themselves by distributing the drugs for "bodybuilding and athletic performance enhancement," while scheduling so-called "steroid clinics" at a Pittsburgh wellness center run by Hatzimbes.
The veteran football doctor told ESPN that the practice never involved members of the Steelers team.
"Because I was associated with the Steelers, the assumption was that I was giving everyone on the Steelers growth hormone or steroids," Rydze told ESPN.com. "You say a team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and you are saying he is buying growth hormone from a pharmacy in Florida -- what the hell else are you going to think?"
He said the "whole thing got way overblown."
"I was doing some kind of little bit of research back then and using growth hormone to help heal people with tendon injuries. That seems to be, in my estimation in looking at that hormone, the only role it really plays in helping people. It does seem to make you heal better, quicker. So we were using it with various orthopedic patients.
"It was never done in athletes," he said. "It was never with any Steelers."
Rydze allegedly often diagnosed his patients as having hormone imbalance, pituitary deficiency or adrenal insufficiency, and then prescribed the drugs, the indictment said.
The steroids included Stanozolol, Nandrolone Decanoate, Testosterone Enanthate, Testosterone Cypionate, Oxandrolone and Testosterone.
Attorneys for the three men could not be immediately reached for comment. The Steelers also did not immediately return calls requesting comment.