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Alex Rodriguez admits using banned substances

He says he does not know exactly what the substances were. 'I was stupid,' he says.

February 10, 2009|Bill Shaikin

He did not just do it once.

Alex Rodriguez admitted Monday that he used performance-enhancing substances for the three years before baseball initiated steroid tests in which violators would be identified and suspended.

"I was stupid for three years," the New York Yankees' Rodriguez told ESPN.

Two days after Sports Illustrated revealed that Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003, Rodriguez said he took performance-enhancing drugs upon joining the Texas Rangers in 2001, citing the "enormous amount of pressure" that accompanied his then-record $252-million contract with the club.

"I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time," he said. "I did take a banned substance. And, for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful."

Rodriguez's admission was addressed by Barack Obama, who, during his first prime-time news conference as president, called it "depressing news" that tarnishes an entire era of baseball.

Although the admission does not subject Rodriguez to a suspension from baseball and probably does not subject him to legal charges, he has received an invitation from Congress to speak out against steroids.

Torii Hunter of the Angels watched Rodriguez's televised admission and said Rodriguez could not have suffered in silence.

"A-Rod is the type of person who wants everyone to like him anyway," Hunter said. "He can't function with people thinking he might have taken steroids and might be continually lying. He wants it out of the way.

"I know it will be a dark cloud over him for a year or two, but he told the truth, and he hasn't tested positive for anything since then."

Rodriguez played three years in Texas, with the Rangers finishing in last place in the American League West each year. The Rangers' roster during those years included several players linked to steroids, including Rafael Palmeiro and Ken Caminiti.

Palmeiro tested positive for steroids in 2005, when he played for the Baltimore Orioles. Caminiti, who died in 2004, admitted to using steroids.

Rodriguez, 33, said he did not know which substances he used during that period and would not say how he obtained them.

"It was such a loosey-goosey era," he said, speaking generally and not just with regard to the Rangers. "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."

Baseball tested for steroids for the first time in 2003, during a survey in which players were promised anonymity. Rodriguez said he stopped using the drugs after an injury in 2003; baseball players first were subject to identification and suspension for positive tests in 2004.

Although steroid use without a valid medical prescription was illegal during the years Rodriguez said he used them, his admission should not subject him to legal trouble, said Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor with the law firm of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips.

The government has focused its efforts on prosecuting drug distributors rather than users, with the exception of players who deny steroid use in the face of potentially conflicting evidence.

The government has charged Barry Bonds -- and is investigating whether to charge Roger Clemens -- not with drug use but with perjury, for allegedly lying by denying drug use under oath.

"Clemens brought on himself a grand jury investigation by going on '60 Minutes' and testifying under oath before Congress," Rosengart said. "He forced the government's hand.

"Rodriguez appears to have learned from Clemens' mistake. By admitting his steroid use, he makes it very unlikely that he will be investigated or prosecuted. If anything, he will be seen as a cooperating witness rather than a subject or target of any investigation."

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a member of the House committee that grilled Clemens last year and then referred him to the Justice Department for investigation, said he believes it would be a good idea for the committee staff to meet with Rodriguez and learn what he might be able to share about baseball's steroid era.

"Mr. Rodriguez made the right move in admitting his mistake," Cummings said, "and now he must go one step further by working with us to spread the message that performance-enhancing drugs are illegal, unethical and, most importantly, harmful to our young people."

Cummings said he was "extremely concerned" about allegations that Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer, tipped Rodriguez to an upcoming drug test in 2004. Orza denied the allegations, made in the Sports Illustrated report, in e-mails to media outlets Monday.

"If it's true and the circumstances are still present," Cummings said, "it's undermining everything we've been working toward."

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