NEW YORK // Alex Rodriguez admitted yesterday that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001-03, saying he did so because of the pressures of being baseball's highest-paid player. The All-Star third baseman, responding to a weekend Sports Illustrated report that he failed a drug test, told ESPN on Monday he used banned substances while playing with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03 to justify his 10-year, US$252million (Dh925m) contract.
"Back then it was a different culture," Rodriguez, 33, said. "It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive, and I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth, you know - and being one of the greatest players of all time." He said he did not do it before then and quit during spring training in 2003, before the first of three American League Most Valuable Player seasons, because "I've proved to myself and to everyone that I don't need any of that." He was traded to the New York Yankees before the 2004 season, and said he has not used since.
The admission came two days after Sports Illustrated reported on its official website that Rodriguez was among 104 names on a list of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003, when testing was intended to determine the extent of steroid use in baseball. The results were not subject to discipline and were supposed to remain anonymous. "When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day," Rodriguez said.
"And I did take a banned substance and, you know, for that I'm very sorry and deeply regretful. And although it was the culture back then and Major League Baseball overall was very - I just feel that - You know, I'm just sorry. I'm sorry for that time. I'm sorry to fans. I'm sorry for my fans in Texas. It wasn't until then that I ever thought about substance of any kind." In his first prime-time news conference, the US president Barack Obama called Rodriguez's admission "depressing" news. "And if you're a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an entire era, to some degree," Mr Obama said. "And it's unfortunate, because I think there were a lot of ballplayers who played it straight."
Rodriguez said part of the reason he started using drugs was the heat in Texas. "Can I have an edge just to get out there and play every day?" he said to himself. "You basically end up trusting the wrong people. You end up, you know, not being very careful about what you're ingesting." Though Rodriguez said he experimented with a number of substances, he never provided details. "It was such a loosey-goosey era. I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions," he said.
"And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using." Sports Illustrated reported Rodriguez tested positive for Primobolan and testosterone. He said he stopped using during spring training 2003, when he sustained a neck injury. It was just as baseball started its drug-testing survey. It was only in 2004 that testing with penalties began. The owner of the Rangers, Tom Hicks, also co-owner of Liverpool Football Club, said the admission caught him by surprise.
"I feel personally betrayed. I feel deceived by Alex," Hicks said in a conference call. "He assured me that he had far too much respect for his own body to ever do that to himself. ... I certainly don't believe that if he's now admitting that he started using when he came to the Texas Rangers, why should I believe that it didn't start before he came to the Texas Rangers?" During those three seasons, Rodriguez led the American League in homers each year and averaged 161.7 games, 52 homers, 131.7 RBIs and a .615 slugging percentage.
In the other 10 full seasons of his career, he averaged 149.2 games, 39.2 homers, 119 RBIs, and a .574 slugging percentage, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. "This is three years I'm not proud of," Rodriguez said. Rodriguez ranks 12th on the career list with 553 homers, including 52, 57 and 47 in his three seasons with the Rangers. He is 209 behind Barry Bonds' record 762. *AP