NPR Story
2:52 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Alex Rodriguez, Others Suspended By MLB For Drugs

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 3:32 pm

Alex Rodriguez was suspended through 2014 and All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera were banned 50 games apiece Monday when Major League Baseball disciplined 13 players in a drug case – the most sweeping punishment since the Black Sox scandal nearly a century ago.

Ryan Braun’s 65-game suspension last month and previous punishments bring to 18 the total number of players disciplined for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs.

The harshest penalty was reserved for Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball’s highest-paid star. His suspension covers 211 games. Rodriguez has until Thursday to appeal, and if he does, he will remain eligible to play until a decision by the arbitrator.

The New York Yankees slugger admitted four years ago that he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas from 2001-03 but has repeatedly denied using them since.

Rodriguez was suspended under both the drug agreement and labor contract.

MLB said the drug penalty was for “his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years.”

His penalty under the labor contract was “for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner’s investigation.”

The other 12 players have already agreed to their 50-game penalties.

Guest

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Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. We have the latest from Major League Baseball. According to various sources, 12 players have accepted a 50-game suspension for their involvement in that doping scandal traced to Biogenesis, the now-defunct anti-aging clinic in South Florida. The lone holdout is reportedly Yankee third-baseman Alex Rodriguez, who is also expected to receive the harshest punishment.

Let's go right now to baseball historian Glenn Stout, who's been following this story from his home in Vermont, which is a tough one to follow, Glenn. It has just ricocheted all day. We were supposed to have announcements earlier today. They were postponed, pushed back. We've had the leaks of different information. What's going on?

GLENN STOUT: Well, it was just announced that Rodriguez has received a 211-game suspension to begin August 8th for the use, possession and cover-up of performance-enhancing drugs, namely testosterone and HGH, but under the agreement between the players and the union, Rodriguez will be able to appeal that. It's going to go to an arbiter. It doesn't go into effect August 8, so he will be in the Yankee lineup tonight playing third base.

YOUNG: Well, boy, talk about timing. This has just happened. I mean this - I mean, we don't often get to say this just in, and it's really true.

STOUT: Right, about a minute and a half ago.

YOUNG: What do you think - why do you think this unfolded this way, Glenn? Because again, the announcement was supposed to be made earlier. We were getting dribs and drabs of the different players who had accepted their suspension. Why do you think it's happened this way? What's going on?

STOUT: Well, I think Major League Baseball was hoping that everybody would accept their suspension. Nelson Cruz was a late holdout. He apparently didn't decide to accept his until earlier this afternoon. And apparently from - some reports say that there were negotiations between the union and Major League Baseball about Rodriguez, and I think they were hoping that at some point Rodriguez might just say yes.

But, you know, there's so much money at stake, there's so much at stake about baseball, there's so much at stake for the players' association and for the agreement between the players and ownership that this is not an easy thing. And I think Alex Rodriguez is within his rights to demand a hearing on this, to appeal, to go before an arbitrator, and he's determined to do that.

You know, it's interesting that very few of these players that were banned today have actually tested positive for use. This all comes out of the Biogenesis scandal.

YOUNG: Well, in fact we're going to be talking more about doping scandals in general, and that seems to be the trend. It's not testing, it's somebody getting angry, as was the case in Biogenesis. A partner in Biogenesis was angry about $4,000 he was owed. He started naming names and releasing emails and such, and here we are over $4,000, these $100-million contracts are in jeopardy.

And just to remind ourselves, you say Alex Rodriguez has long said I have the right to an appeal. The union didn't back him at first, and then they changed their minds.

STOUT: No, they didn't back him at first, and I think, you know, eventually they had to realize that they have to back up their own agreement and if they were to let this part of the agreement go in regard to Alex Rodriguez, not only was there some legal jeopardy there, but it sets a precedent. What happens the next time that MLB wants to overlook a portion of the basic agreement?

There's just no real way to do that, and the stakes are much higher for Alex Rodriguez than they are for many of the other players. He's less than 100 hits away from 3,000 hits. He's got about $90 million on the table, whereas some other players, Ryan Braun for instance, his suspension is only going to cost him a couple of million dollars, and then he gets to go back and collect the rest of his contract.

So there's very much more at stake with Rodriguez. That's why Major League Baseball and Commissioner Selig are going after him. He's the biggest symbol. He can make the biggest splash. He can make the biggest point. They're hoping that by suspending Rodriguez they'll be able to put the steroid scandal behind them.

But as I said before, you know, these guys didn't even test positive. Who else is still out there? That's the question that we'll never know.

YOUNG: Well, Jeremy's showing me how this is going out in the Twittersphere and just being, you know, reported around the world, this idea that Rodriguez is not going to be just out for the 2013 season but the entire 2014 season. He's obviously going to appeal that.

He - there's so much more at stake for him because he's being penalized with something like 214 games, the other players 50 games, and he claims that this is all about getting rid of his - the rest of his contract. With what we hear about the information that's out there from that disgruntled Biogenesis investor who lost $4,000, does - is there a sense that A-Rod has a leg to stand on?

STOUT: Well, until it gets before an arbitrator, it's really hard to tell. You know, there's so much that's funny with this whole thing. I mean, you've got this disgruntled, you've got boxes of documents, all these things. It's going to be a very, very interesting legal question as to how this actually plays out because not until it gets to that appeal process, I think, will the full scope of what Major League Baseball has and what the full scope of whatever arguments Alex Rodriguez has in regard to why he shouldn't be suspended.

That's not going to be revealed until it gets before the arbitrator. So in a sense, this is just the beginning of part of the process. Even though Alex was suspended for 211 games today, as of August 8th, that's when it goes into effect, that's really just the beginning of the next chapter. For all its efforts, Major League Baseball, for almost 20 years now, has been unable to put performance-enhancing drug issue behind them.

YOUNG: Well, yeah, and meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez is playing tonight against the Chicago White Sox. Glenn Stout, baseball historian, editor of "The Best American Sports Writing," Glenn thanks as always.

STOUT: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.