Wednesday, February 11, 2009
American Major League Baseball third baseman Alex Rodriguez, a star player for the New York Yankees, admitted in an interview on sports network ESPN that he used performance-enhancing drugs during 2001 through 2003.
"I did take a banned substance, and for that, I'm very sorry," Rodriguez told ESPN's Peter Gammons. "When I arrived at Texas in 2001 I felt an enormous amount of pressure to perform."
Last week, Sports Illustrated reported that the baseball player, nicknamed 'A-Rod', tested positive in 2003 for Primobolan and testosterone, two substances that have been banned by the league.
During the 2003 season, Rodriguez was playing with the Texas Rangers, and was the winner of the American League MVP Award and was American League leader in home runs. According to sources, Rodriguez was one of 104 players named on a list for testing positive before the 2003 season. The list was compiled in an attempt to determine whether the MLB needed to begin conducting random drug testing.
After the initial report Rodriguez was approached by Sports Illustrated while he was training for the upcoming season in a Miami area gym. At that time, Rodriguez told the reporter "You'll have to talk to the union." He was also asked for an explanation of his positive test result, to which he commented "I'm not saying anything." According to a report by ESPN, sources claim that Rodriguez was aware that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
However, in December 2007 after United States Senator George J. Mitchell's Mitchell Report was released accusing such teammates of Rodriguez as Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte of steroid use, Rodriguez appeared on ABC's 60 Minutes and declined the use of any steroid or performance-enhancing drug. He also commented that he would not need the help of steroids, stating, "I've never felt overmatched on the baseball field. I felt that if I did my, my work as I've done since I was, you know, a rookie back in Seattle, I didn't have a problem competing at any level."
Senator Mitchell stated in a prepared comment yesterday that his report had only named that players that "had received credible evidence of their illegal purchase, possession, or use of performance enhancing substances." He pointed out that he "did not have access to the results of the 2003 drug testing, and to this day I do not know which players tested positive then."
The MLB declined to comment directly on the situation due to court orders on the list of names and documents, but did release a statement: "Information and documents relating to the results of the 2003 MLB testing program are both confidential and under seal by court orders. We are prohibited from confirming or denying any allegation about the test results of any particular player by the court orders. Anyone with knowledge of such documents who discloses their contents may be in violation of those court orders."
Rodriguez has been one of the many prominent American baseball players over the past few years who has been linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Other prominent names include both the arguably greatest hitter and pitcher in Major League Baseball history, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bonds, the all-time Major League record holder for home runs, was linked to steroid use during the BALCO scandal in 2003, while Clemens was named in the Mitchell report in December of 2007.
The executive vice president for labor relations of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, stated that league commissioner Bud Selig was "disturbed" by the linking of steroid use to Rodriguez. Commenting for the league, he said, "Because the survey testing that took place in 2003 was intended to be non-disciplinary and anonymous, we cannot make any comment on the accuracy of this report as it pertains to the player named."
The report by Sports Illustrated also made the claim that Gene Orza, the COO of the Major League Baseball Players Association informed Rodriguez of a random drug test that occurred in September of 2004, a test that was supposed to remain confidential to all players. The MLBPA denied the accusations, commenting "There was no improper tipping of players in 2004 about the timing of drug tests. In September 2004 MLBPA attorneys met with certain players, but we are not able to confirm or deny the names of any players with whom we met." When asked in the Sports Illustrated report, Orza declined to comment, stating "I'm not interested in discussing this information with you."
The anonymous testing of players was started in 2003 by the MLB, in order to get a brief estimate of how many players were using performance-enhancing drugs, leading to the beginning of the mandatory, penalty-enforced testing that began in 2004. 1,198 players took the "survey test" in 2003, and the results were later stored in a laboratory in Las Vegas, with codes being used in place of the players names. However, a list of the players actual names that went with the list of codes was kept in a separate office in Long Beach, never intended to ever be together with the codes.
In April 2004, federal agents with search warrants raided the two labs looking for information on the 2003 BALCO scandal test results of 10 players, including Barry Bonds. While searching, they found both the list of names and the codes, including the positive test result of Rodriguez. Following the investigation and raid, the MLBPA informed all 104 players on the list that their positive test data had been sized by the federal agents.
Former Major League Baseball star and self-confessed steroid user José Canseco told the media that the news was old, saying "I said in my book Vindicated that he was a known steroid user before 2000. It's old news. I've been saying this forever. You guys are playing catch-up." In the book, Canseco links Rodriguez to steroids through the claim that he saw him using the drugs. In his first book, Juiced, references to Rodriguez were removed by the publisher of the book because it could not be confirmed that Canseco actually saw Rodriguez taking steroids. According to the publisher, it was only after Canseco passed a lie detector test that information about Rodriguez was allowed into Vindicated.
Current senior advisor to the Texas Rangers John Hart commented on the situation in an interview with MLB Network. "I think in the climate that we have today, you don't have much shock anymore. Obviously Alex probably is the best player in baseball. This has always been a special talent and the guy has been putting up Hall of Fame numbers since the day he showed up in the big leagues. I've been in the game for almost 40 years and it hurts a little bit, if in fact this is true. It breaks my heart for the game that we have this kind of thing occurring, But at the same time, a lot of people seem to have been caught in this net," he said.
Since the positive test occurred in 2003 before penalties were instituted, Rodriguez will most likely not be suspended by the MLB as a result of the situation.
== Sources ==
Russell Goldman. "'A-Rod' Alex Rodriguez Admits to Steroids Use: 'I Was Stupid, I Was Naive'" — ABC News, February 9, 2009
Michael S. Schmidt. "Rodriguez Admits to Using Performance-Enhancing Drugs" — The New York Times, February 9, 2009
"Report: A-Rod tested positive in 2003" — ESPN, February 8, 2009
Bob Hohler. "Report: Positive test for A-Rod" — The Boston Globe, February 8, 2009
Dave Sheinin. "Rodriguez Reportedly Tested Positive for Steroids in 2003" — The Washington Post, February 8, 2009