Skaggs was found dead at the team hotel in Texas on July 1. “alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone” was found in his system, and listed his cause of death as “terminal aspiration of gastric contents,” meaning he choked on his vomit. The Skaggs family released a statement soon thereafter saying an Angels employee may have been involved:
Kay told investigators he illegally obtained six oxycodone pills and gave three to Skaggs a day or two before the team left California for the road trip to Texas, according to the two sources. Kay told DEA agents he does not think the pills he obtained for Skaggs were the same ones the pitcher took the day he died because Skaggs typically would ingest the pills immediately after receiving them from Kay, the sources said. Skaggs also texted Kay the day the team left for Texas seeking more oxycodone, a request Kay told investigators he was unable to fulfill, the sources said.
Because he admitted to supplying Skaggs with oxycodone, Kay could face criminal charges, though it would be difficult to prove whether the drugs or alcohol caused Skaggs’ death. Kay has been with the Angels in 1996 and is currently on paid leave as he receives treatment for substance abuse.
According to Quinn, Kay told investigators he would obtain drugs for Skaggs and himself, and Skaggs would pay for them. Financial records show Skaggs made a series of payments ranging from 0 to 0 to Kay over the span of two years. Kay has twice sought treatment for substance abuse this year and has been abusing opioids since his father passed away in 1998.
Kay told DEA investigators that hours before Skaggs’ death in July, Skaggs was in his Southlake Hilton hotel room and texted Kay to visit him, according to a source familiar with what Kay told the DEA. Kay also told investigators that Skaggs snorted three lines of crushed opioids in front of him, the sources said. Kay recognized that two of the lines could have been crushed oxycodone, but the third was not a substance he recognized, the sources said. Kay said he did not take any drugs despite being offered them by Skaggs, the sources said, because he was on a medication that would have negated the effects.
The Angels released the following statement on Saturday afternoon shortly after the ESPN report was published:
An Angels employee told Drug Enforcement Administration agents he provided pitcher Tyler Skaggs with oxycodone for years, according to a report from ESPN‘s T.J. Quinn. Eric Kay, the Angels director of communications, also gave federal agents the names of five other players who he believed were using opiates while with the Angels and said other team officials knew about Skaggs’ drug abuse for years.
The DEA became involved because fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, was found in Skaggs’ system. Kay was connected to Skaggs after investigators reviewed text messages between the two. Here’s more from Quinn:
MLB does not test for opioids, but rules stipulate that any team official who learns a player is using drugs must report it to the Commissioner’s Office. The Angels never alerted MLB to Skaggs’ drug abuse, according to Quinn. Tim Mead, formerly the Angels vice president of communications and currently the president of the Hall of Fame, denied knowing Skaggs used opioids.
“We have never heard that any employee was providing illegal narcotics to any player, or that any player was seeking illegal narcotics,” Angels president John Carpino said. “The Angels maintain a strict, zero tolerance policy regarding the illicit use of drugs for both players and staff. Every one of our players must also abide by the MLB Joint Drug Agreement. We continue to mourn the loss of Tyler and fully cooperate with the authorities as they continue their investigation.”