New York Yankees star handed a 162-game ban for drugs violation.
Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball, was given a record 162-game doping suspension by an arbitrator on Saturday, banning him for the entire 2014 season and playoffs.
The New York Yankees third baseman, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player who helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series, vowed to appeal the ban to a US federal court.
Independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upheld most of the 211-game ban imposed upon Rodriguez last August for his role in the Biogenesis doping scandal, which led to bans for 12 other players for taking drugs from the Miami clinic.
Rodriguez, who was given a harsher ban after evidence showed he tried to impede a probe into the matter, will fight — despite the players’ union and Major League Baseball saying the arbitration decision was the final word on the matter under the terms of their labor deal.
“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances or violate the basic agreement or the joint drug agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez played the final weeks of the 2013 season while appealing the ban, even setting a major league record for career grand slams with his 24th bases-loaded homer last September.
Despite the reduction in total games missed, the suspension remains the longest in the history of Major League Baseball for doping, and “A-Rod” remains the highest-profile baseball player ever banned.
Rodriguez, whose 654 career homers are 108 shy of Barry Bonds’ all-time record, will lose $25 million in salary from the Yankees this year, or about $154,000 for every game missed in 2014 under the record 10-year deal for $275 million he signed in 2007.
Rodriguez, who in 2009 admitted that he took steroids while playing for the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003, would be 39 when he returns to play in 2015.
The Yankees could still owe Rodriguez $61 million from 2015-2017, although that could be contested in court also.
“I am confident that when a federal judge reviews the entirety of the record… and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts and will overturn the suspension,” Rodriguez said.
Major League Baseball defended the process and its original ban in a statement.
“For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the basic agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights,” the league said.
“While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”
While the ban would preclude Rodriguez from playing for the Yankees this year, it does not explicitly deny him from being able to attend the Yankees’ pre-season training camp next month in Tampa, Florida.
“I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez was first banned last August for taking performance-enhancing drugs, including testosterone and human growth hormone.
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise as the deck has been stacked against me from day one,” Rodriguez said.
“This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test… and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable.”
Anthony Bosch, the main witness against Rodriguez in the major league probe and the former Biogenesis director, says he injected the Yankees star with banned substances, according to US television network CBS, which will show an interview with him Sunday.
Bosch told CBS he delivered testosterone and human growth hormone to Rodriguez at least 12 times and Rodriguez paid him $12,000 a month in cash for the banned substances with text message evidence indicating they communicated daily at times about the drugs.
Bosch said Rodriguez would ask him to do the injections because the slugger is scared of needles and that Rodriguez intimidated him to try and prevent him from cooperating with the investigation.
“The concerns seemed credible, particularly given that he identified individuals that we had our own concerns about,” Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rod Manfred said.
Major League Baseball dropped a lawsuit against Bosch and now pays for his legal fees and security guards in exchange for his cooperation, a deal Rodriguez calls a $5 million bribe that undermines Bosch’s credibility.
“The credibility of any witness is determined by looking the individual in the eye, listening to the story he tells and then lining it up with the other evidence and frankly nobody came in and contradicted what Mr. Bosch said,” Manfred said.