As spring training dawned in 2009, Alex Rodriguez faced the cameras and confessed to his use of performance-enhancing substances from 2001 to 2003.
“My mistake … I was immature and I was stupid,” he said.
Yet, that very same year, the New York Yankees star was supplied with performance-enhancing drugs, according to a report published Tuesday by Miami New Times. The newspaper cited 16 records from a now-closed Florida clinic that indicated Rodriguez was provided with human growth hormone and other substances as recently as last year.
The report also linked Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon and San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal to the clinic.
Cabrera, Colon and Grandal all were issued suspensions by Major League Baseball last year after failing drug tests.
The other players, including Rodriguez, are at risk of suspension if MLB investigators can find evidence to corroborate the report. Under the league’s drug policy, a positive test is not the only evidence that can warrant a suspension.
However, a suspension for Rodriguez might mean a ban from games in which he would not play anyway. MLB does not hold suspensions in abeyance for injured players.
Rodriguez would be treated as a first-time offender — MLB did not have a testing or punishment program in place at the time Rodriguez has admitted his use of performance-enhancing drugs — and would be subject to a 50-game suspension. However, he underwent hip surgery earlier this month and is expected to miss much, if not all, of the 2013 season.
Rodriguez retained Sitrick and Co., a Los Angeles-based crisis management firm, which issued a statement on his behalf dismissing the New Times reporting on Rodriguez as “not true” and the clinic records as “not legitimate.” A spokesman told reporters Rodriguez denies using any performance-enhancing drugs during the 2009-12 period covered in the New Times report.
Gonzalez took to Twitter with a denial that read in part: “I’ve never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will.”
A law firm representing Cruz denied “allegations and inferences” about him in a statement provided to the Associated Press.
In a statement, MLB said it was “extremely disappointed to learn of potential links between players and the use of performance-enhancing substances” but was “in the midst of an active investigation.”
League investigators already had traced a link between the rise in positive drug tests last season and supplies from South Florida, according to a person familiar with the probe but not authorized to discuss it. The MLB investigators were not aware of a link to all the players named in Tuesday’s report, the person said.
The report would appear to doom whatever small chance Rodriguez had to make the Hall of Fame, at least based on the mood of an electorate unforgiving of those players linked to performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez, 37, has hit 647 home runs, fifth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays. His contract with the Yankees includes incentive payments for tying each of the four men ranking above him and for breaking the all-time record.
However, Rodriguez has been slowed by injury and relative ineffectiveness. His slugging percentage has declined for five consecutive seasons — he ranked 11th among the 19 MLB third basemen with at least 500 plate appearances last season — and the Yankees owe him a guaranteed $118 million on a contract that extends through 2017.