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Manny Ramirez reportedly on 2003 list of positive drug tests

Manny Ramirez made his triumphant return to Dodger Stadium two weeks ago, with fans packing the Mannywood seats to welcome back the team’s most popular player from his 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.

The Mannywood section will remain open, even after Ramirez on Thursday was linked again to the use of performance-enhancing substances. He and David Ortiz, the dynamic slugging duo that powered the Red Sox to World Series championships in 2004 -- Boston’s first in 86 years -- and 2007, each tested positive for such substances six years ago, the New York Times reported.

The report, citing but not identifying lawyers familiar with the test results, stirred renewed debate within baseball about whether to release the names of all 104 players who tested positive in 2003, a list intended to remain confidential and currently under court seal.

The names of four of the game’s biggest stars -- Ramirez, Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa -- have been disclosed in three media reports over the last six months.

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“You have someone who’s a little rat, who keeps poking his head out of the hole,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Why not just come out? Why throw a name out there every three months, every six months? Why keep playing these games?”

Ortiz, known affectionately as Big Papi, issued a statement in which he said the players’ union had confirmed the positive test for him and pledged to reveal more details as he learned them. “You know me, I will not hide and I will not make excuses,” he said.

Ramirez referred reporters to the union and declined to discuss specifics of the report.

“Me and David, we’re like two mountains,” Ramirez said. “We’re going to keep doing good no matter what. . . . Only God is going to be able to move those two mountains.”

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Dodgers President Dennis Mannion said he could not comment on the report, as the commissioner’s office has asked clubs to refrain from discussing details of the policy. He said the Dodgers would not put the Mannywood promotion on hold -- as they did when he was suspended -- and would not withdraw the upcoming Ramirez poster and bobblehead giveaways.

“We’ve got those things in place,” Mannion said. “We’re not going to change them. We’ll just move forward.”

Hunter said he was particularly frustrated by the disclosures of what he called “the big names” and suggested the entire list be released if it could not be protected. “Fans don’t even care anymore,” he said. “Either expose all of them, or don’t expose any of them.”

In March, soon after signing a two-year, $45-million contract with the Dodgers, Ramirez failed a drug test -- the only such result among more than 2,400 tests this season, Commissioner Bud Selig said at this month’s All-Star game.

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Ramirez appealed, and during an investigation baseball officials discovered a prescription for HCG, a banned substance most commonly used as a female fertility drug, sources told The Los Angeles Times. According to anti-doping experts, male steroid users can use HCG to replenish testosterone levels.

In May, when Ramirez withdrew his appeal and accepted the suspension, he issued a statement in which he said he had “taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”

That would not have included the 2003 season, when the owners and the union agreed to a one-year survey program in which players would not be identified or punished for testing positive.

If more than 5% of the tests were positive -- and they were -- then baseball would adopt a program in which players testing positive could be identified and suspended.

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As part of the BALCO investigation, federal agents seized the list of the 104 players who tested positive in 2003. The commissioner’s office and the union have asked a California court to ensure the anonymity promised to players.

In a statement Thursday, the union said it would take “appropriate legal steps” to enforce the court seal. Indeed, the union said that it could not comment publicly on whether Ramirez had tested positive because those results remained under seal.

BALCO founder Victor Conte, who served four months in federal prison for steroid distribution and money laundering, said he suspected government attorneys were responsible for disclosing the names of Ramirez and others on the list.

“What is the motive? The same motive you have with Barry Bonds being charged with perjury when others have done the same thing and not been charged. It seems to be about publicity,” Conte said, the government “justifying its existence after spending all these millions on this case.”

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Bonds, the all-time home-run leader, also is on that list of 104, according to court documents filed for his perjury trial.

Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, the team’s union representative, said players had a previously scheduled meeting Thursday with incoming union chief Michael Weiner. The discussion covered more than the Ramirez report, but Martin also said that the entire list of names would not be released.

“That’s never going to happen,” he said.

One reason, according to multiple sources who declined to be identified because of the court case, is that eight of the players on the list tested positive for substances not banned at the time of the test. One such substance was androstenedione, which has since been restricted under baseball rules and federal law.

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In addition, when enough positives turned up to trigger mandatory testing in 2004, neither the commissioner’s office nor the union offered players the opportunity to appeal, something players have a right to after being promised anonymity and amnesty.

For those reasons, Dodgers infielder Mark Loretta doesn’t want the list released.

“As easy as that solution sounds for the guys involved,” he said, “we have to remember that some names on that list are guys who tested positive for things that may have been legal at that time.

“With the way it was portrayed to guys . . . it would be very unfair at this point to give their names to the wolves.”

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And so the names come out, slowly, with each one refocusing attention on a steroid era baseball had hoped to leave in its past.

“It’s one of those ongoing lingering things,” Loretta said. “It’s kind of like water torture.”

Times staff writers Mike DiGiovanna in Minneapolis, Dylan Hernandez in St. Louis, Lance Pugmire in Los Angeles and Hartford Courant staff writer Dom Amore in Boston contributed to this report.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com


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