x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

A-Rod is forced to ask for forgiveness

Alex Rodriguez is not sorry for doing steroids, he is sorry he got caught. It is not like he brought this to the light of day on his own. His hand was forced.

I was looking forward to a quiet weekend after the whirlwind of Super Bowl week. I was nodding off after watching Liverpool beat Portsmouth on Saturday when I was informed of a story. The story was this: In 2003, when he won the American League home run title and the AL Most Valuable Player award as shortstop for the Texas Rangers, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for two anabolic steroids. Four sources independently told Sports Illustrated this.

Rodriguez's name appears on a list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing, SI's sources said. As part of a joint agreement with the MLB Players' Association, the testing was conducted to determine if it was necessary to impose mandatory random drug testing across the major leagues in 2004. In a world where too many stories are considered "breaking news", this was the epitome of breaking news. We are talking about the player whom most consider the best in the game right now, who has been on top of the sport for over a decade and who will cruise into the Hall of Fame when his career is over. Rodriguez had kept out of the steroid spotlight that has engulfed players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmiero over the past decade. Working in this business, I had heard whispers about A-Rod, but nothing even close to what came out on Saturday.

The reporter who broke the story, Selena Roberts, approached Rodriguez last Thursday for comment on the 2003 test results. "You'll have to talk to the union," Rodriguez said. Talk to the union? If you ask someone if they did steroids and they did not, the answer better be an emphatic "no". Why, if A-Rod were innocent of this, would he need to pawn off the reporter with a feeble excuse? I will give Rodriguez credit, he did not make us wait long for his next move. On Monday afternoon ESPN released an exclusive interview with Rodriguez where he admitted that he did in fact take illegal performance-enhancing drugs while playing for the Rangers during a three-year period beginning in 2001. He was vague on what drugs and how many times he used them. A-Rod used the broadcast confessional to explain why he did what he did. He looked intense during the interview, he even managed to get misty-eyed on cue. I almost expected to hear some light, but dramatic piano music in the background.

"I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions. And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using." Rodriguez said. "I was stupid for three years. I was very, very stupid." He chose to ask for the sports fans' forgiveness. I do not want to be overly cynical, but he is not sorry for doing steroids, he is sorry he got caught. It is not like he brought this to the light of day on his own. His hand was forced.

Now the story is in a holding pattern. The time from accusation to admission was brief. What happens next with Rodriguez is up to him and most of it is about what he does on the field. The New York Yankee fans have a long history of forgiving a star as long as that star plays stellar baseball after their transgression. The real challenge for him will be down the road, maybe 15 years down the road, when A-Rod becomes eligible for The Baseball Hall of Fame. Clemens and Bonds will either be in or not. It will be interesting to see if the voters treat this steroid incident as a footnote on a Rodriguez' Hall of Fame career or as the headline.

ppabst@thenational.ae